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It is physically separated from the rest of the continent by the Atlas Mountains and is inhabited primarily by peoples who speak languages that belong to the Berbers) of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.The Berbers are most numerous in Morocco and least in Tunisia, where, as a result of culture contact and intermarriage, they have become largely assimilated with Guinea Coast.Much earlier, in several waves of migrations beginning in the 7th century, Arabs spread across northern Africa and, to a lesser extent, into western Africa, bringing a new religion (Islam) and a new language (Arabic), along with some new cultural and political institutions.

Complicating the situation in the 20th century was the creation of new “tribes” (such as the Zande [Azande] and Luo) that had not been distinct polities before the colonial era.

Ethnic (cultural) identities in modern times have often been heightened, exacerbated, or muted for political reasons.

For the purposes of this discussion, the principal regions are northern, western, west-central, eastern, and Central and Southern Africa; Madagascar is also included.

Africa north of the Sahara is differentiated from the rest of the continent by its Mediterranean climate and by its long history of political and cultural contacts with peoples outside of Africa.

Hominidae, the taxonomic family to which modern humans belong.

Archaeological evidence indicates that the continent has been inhabited by humans and their forebears for some 4,000,000 years or more.

The savanna area stretches for some 3,000 miles (4,800 km) east to west along the southern Saharan borderland.

Its vegetation consists of extensive grasslands and few forests, and little rain falls there.

Throughout human history there have been movements of peoples ( human migration) within, into, and out of Africa along its northern coasts, across the Sinai Peninsula, along the Red Sea, and especially in the Horn of Africa and coastal areas as far south as Southern Africa.

North Africa from the Strait of Gibraltar to the Nile River delta has been the site of conquests and movements of peoples for thousands of years.

Throughout the region live the many groups of the Fulani, a cattle-keeping Muslim people who either have conquered indigenous peoples (such as the numerous Hausa) or live in a symbiotic relationship with agricultural peoples.