History of North Africa

The Almoravids were the Berbers that moved north from the Sahara’s west. In 1040 CE, their chieftain made a pilgrimage to Mecca, and this instilled a deep love, respect and zeal for Islam in the minds and hearts of his followers. In 1062, the Almoravids established Marrakech as their base and proceeded to conquer northwest Africa systematically and effectively until they had seized as far as Algeria. On request from the Spanish, the Almoravids moved onto Spain in 1086 CE and conquered all but the east coast, where El Cid captured Valencia 8 years after their arrival in Spain. The country became steeped in the Muslim faith, and the Spanish architecture etc…, in turn, spread into the north of Africa. This vast area became too big for the Almoravid sultans to sustain, and the Christians began their second conquest of Spain in 1118. Likewise, Marrakech was overthrown by the Almohads (also Berbers) in 1147.

The Almohads held far stricter Islam ideals that the Almoravids. After Marrakech, they conquered the whole of the coast of North Africa, right up to Benghazi. This meant that all of the smaller divisions of the greater Berbers were now under one jurisdiction, although their power spread to Spain as well. Once the Almoravids in Morocco had been conquered, the Almohads occupied southern Spain and made Seville (conquered in 1147) the capital of Spain.

The Christian movement began to sneak back in when the Almohad power began its decline and Las Navas de Toloso was conquered in 1212 CE. Between this time and 1238, Cordoba, Seville and Valencia were all won back by the Christians. The Tunisian governor that had declared himself independent in 1229 began the Hafsids dynasty. It took until 1269 for Marrakech and the Almohad rule in Morocco to be quashed. This was done by the Marinids, and their rulership lasted until the 1400’s, while the Hafsids lasted into the 1500’s. This left the northwest coast of Africa and the Barbary Coast to the adventurers and pirates that haled from Portugal, Spain and Turkey.

The Barbary Coast was a valuable strip of land on the northwest shores of Africa. Spain and Turkey soon realised its potential and began to vie for power. The Turkish approach allowed pirates to set up camp along the coast, and the Ottoman Empire granted them status as protectorates. This first began in Algeria in 1512, then Libya in 1551 and Tunisia in 1574.

France began their own invasion of Algeria (which they termed an intervention) in 1830 and finally succeeded in 1847. Europe decided that they needed to control the Barbary region as there was little order or means of ensuring fair and peaceful exchanges. France became the official protectorate of Tunisia in 1881 and Morocco in 1912. Libya was granted to Italy in 1912.

Meanwhile, Egypt, noted as the Cradle of Mankind and the origin of human life experienced little between the 16th and 19th centuries. Anarchy reigned until Mohammed Ali recovered the true strength of the country in the 1800’s. His descendants were responsible for introducing the western world with its customs and financial systems into this land. Because of the increased viability of Egypt, the British became more involved. This benefitted them enormously as Egypt was the shortest route to India after the Suez Canal was opened in 1869. Britain finally conquered Egypt in 1882 as a result of riots going on within the country, forcing the British troops to take action. Their priority was to protect the Canal. Finally, Egypt won independence in the 1950’s, followed by many of the other North African countries. Algeria was the last of these countries to gain independence in 1962 CE.