Monday, March 24, 2008

North Africa - Part 1: Mediterranean Coast

Since this blog has been visited now by both Morocco and Libya, I thought we might look at North Africa today. I think I will follow this next week with the belt of countries below today's, but for now we'll consider those with Mediterranean coastline.

You can see ancient terminology for these coastal territories above, split into two parts. Below is a contemporary outline map. We will move from west to east.

You may see larger images if you click on the ones shown here.

Morocco (French: Maroc)
The Kingdom of Morocco shares with Spain the honor of having both Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts. It is a member of the Arab League but not of the African Union. Morocco is a constitutional monarchy and the current monarch is King Mohammed VI. While classical Arabic (in a Moroccan dialect) is the official language, Berber dialects are widely spoken, French functions as a second language of commerce, and Spanish is spoken in much of the northern part of the country. The national motto translates as : God, People, King. The capital city is Rabat.

Algeria (People's Democratic Republic of Algeria)
In the 19th century the French conquered Algeria in a long and deadly struggle. A guerrilla campaign for independence was launched by the FLN (National Liberation Front, in English) in 1954. Independence from France was finally won in 1962. A strong sense of Berber identity has led to recognition of Tamazight (Berber) as a national language along with Arabic. Algiers is the capital city.
The Algerian Civil War was an armed conflict between the Algerian government and various Islamist rebel groups which began in 1991. It is estimated to have cost between 150,000 and 200,000 lives. More than 70 journalists were assassinated, either by security forces or by Islamists.[4] The conflict effectively ended with a government victory, following the surrender of the Islamic Salvation Army and the 2002 defeat of the Armed Islamic Group. However, low-level fighting still continues in some areas. [Wikipedia]

Tunisia (Tunisian Republic)
urbs antiqua fuit (Tyrii tenuere coloni)
Karthago, Italiam contra Tiberinaque longe
ostia, dives opum studiisque asperrima belli,
quam Iuno fertur terris magis omnibus unam
posthabita coluisse Samo. hic illius arma,
hic currus fuit; hoc regnum dea gentibus esse,
si qua fata sinant, iam tum tenditque fovetque.
Thus Carthage enters the tale recounted in Vergil's Aeneid.

Tunisia is famous in ancient history for the important and powerful city of Carthage and its struggle with Rome in the Punic Wars. Tunisia has had a long history and been the focus of many foreign powers and their ambitions through millennia. Crucial battles were fought there during WWII, the German-Italian Axis forces ultimately being defeated by the Allies. Tunisia gained full independence from France in 1956. Tunisia is now a republic with a strong presidential system. Tunis is the capital city.

Libya (Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya)
Libya has low population density and high petroleum holdings, leading to a high GDP. Its flag is the only one in the world of a single color with no further design or insignia. For a period in the 20th century it was an Italian colony, then an independent kingdom, and finally, following a coup, a military dictatorship under Muammar al-Gaddafi. The capital is Tripoli.

Egypt (Arab Republic of Egypt)
The ancient civilization of Egypt under the pharaohs and the role of the Nile floods need no repeating here. "Kemet" is an ancient Egyptian name for the country and means "black land" from dark fertile soil deposited by the Nile. Arab nationalism grew in the mid-20th century and for a while Egypt and Syria together formed the United Arab Republic. It took the name Egypt when the two nations separated. Arabic nationalism has been questioned by Egyptians who see their ethnic and cultural roots as predating the rise of Arab identity. Egypt has been a republic since 1953. The struggle toward full democracy continues.
Although power is ostensibly organized under a multi-party semi-presidential system, whereby the executive power is theoretically divided between the President and the Prime Minister, in practice it rests almost solely with the President who traditionally has been elected in single-candidate elections for more than fifty years [Wikipedia]
The capital of Egypt is Cairo.

Can you now recite the nations stretching along the Mediterranean coast of Africa?
Very good!

Which nation's flag has a star without a crescent?

Which has only one color?

Which has a golden hawk in the middle?

Which one has something to do with the movie "Umbrellas of Cherbourg"? No, that wasn't in the information above, but I bet some of you out there know the answer. The young girl sings (in the English translation): "If it takes forever I will wait for you." Does she?

Which nation is the site of ancient Carthage?

Which the setting of the movie "Casablanca"?

All right, then. Gold stars for most of you and Easter chocolate for all around.
--the BB


FranIAm said...

Cat problems have me up at 3:45am my time- Mr BooBoo has been a bit under the weather, too long a story for here. He seems to be doing better but felt that it was important that I was awake. That said, I thought it might be a good time to do a little blog reading.

Onto my comment. I have longed to visit some of these countries; really all of them at some level. I know a little about some of them but as always, you give such rich detail. A true teacher you are, dear Paul!

In about 1988, in a bout of boldness - I actually made reservations to travel to Tunisia. How I have dreamed of visiting Carthage! My plan was to fly to Italy, go to Sicily for a few days and then off to Tunisia.

Somewhere along the way, I lost my nerve as I would have been going alone. Now I am not a traveler who easily losers her nerve and certainly not over going alone.

But I did.

Oh well - it was not the time yet; I had not yet really gotten my chops to do that kind of trip on my own. At a time when I could have,different winds prevailed in my life and I traveled elsewhere for other reasons.

I would love to visit this whole region in general. Perhaps this will materialize one day.

In the meantime, we always have your blog!

Thank you.

Grandmère Mimi said...

Paul, thank for the combo geography-history lesson. Damn! Now you're giving tests! I'm not taking tests. Isn't it enough that I come to read?

Fran, prayers that your Mr BooBoo's health improves.

Kirstin said...

You make school fun. :-)

Paul said...

I join in wishes for mr BooBoo's well-being.

Grandmère, please don't think of the questions at the end as a test. They are meant as a means of review and play. No scores are to be kept and everyone gets virtual chocolae! Grace, you know.

[Everyone who was sent to me for "make-up" on the General Ordination Exam "passed" and moved on toward ordination. I don't have the makings of a very strict schoolmaster (though I do try to have lots of content, I admit).]

Paul said...


I am tired and my fingers are not doing well on the alternate wireless keyboard that I now use rarely.