The Arabic-speaking Maghreb are descended from nomadic peoples of North Africa.
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The Maghreb is the region of North Africa bordering the Mediterranean Sea. (Maghrebi is Arabic for “West.”) Originally called Africa Minor, at one time it included Moorish Spain. Now it comprises the Atlas Mountains and the coastal plain of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya. The weather of the Maghreb is characterized by prevailing westerly winds, which drop most of their moisture on the northern slopes and coastal plain, leaving little for the southern slopes, which supports only desert scrub fading into true desert in the Sahara to the south. The Maghreb People project is located in the North Africa where fishing and iron ore are the principle industries. Tourism also plays a large part in some of the region’s economy. Dates, millet, sorghum, rice and corn comprise the agricultural products, and industries include fish processing and mining (iron ore and gypsum).
Tuaregs, Moors, Maghrebis, Berbers, Copts, and Nubians are among the people groups represented in North Africa. Many of these groups are descendants of nomadic peoples of times past and still carry-on this cultural heritage. Although sharing similar cultures and sometimes a very close ethnic and cultural heritage, there is often a division along racial, tribal, and clan lines. In some areas, slavery continues to be a fundamental part of the socio-economic fabric of some of these proud people groups, and their rank greatly affects personal relationships.
From the vastness of their mountain ranges, the native peoples of the Maghreb have resisted successive Punic, Roman and Christian invasions. Not until the seventh and eighth centuries was the Maghreb finally conquered. The Arabs imposed Islam and the Arabic language on the native peoples, thus absorbing them into the Muslim civilization. Despite this absorption, most North African societies have preserved their cultural identity throughout the centuries.
The languages spoken are influenced to a greater or lesser degree by Arabic and Berber dialects. The people of the Maghreb belong to both Berber and Arab ethnolinguistic groups. The Berbers are descended from the earlier inhabitants of the region and may trace their ancestry to Paleolithic times. Many other groups have invaded the area, including the Phoenicians, the Arabs and the French. About a sixth of the population of the Maghreb, mostly in Algeria and Morocco, still speak one of the Berber languages, but most also speak some form of Arabic.
The spiritual needs in these lands of the Sahara are great and there are souls even here, who are accepting Christ as their personal Savior.
AFM is sending out Bible workers and tentmakers into this region. Missionaries will test and evaluate various friendship-based approaches to influencing the Maghrebi people with the power and peace that resides in the gospel of the living, loving Jesus Christ. Additional outreach is conducted through lifestyle classes and counseling on healthy living.