Andalusia is the southernmost, and second-largest, of the Spanish regions known as autonomous communities. The name stems from the Moorish occupation, when much of what is now Spain and Portugal was named Al-Andalus. The region’s capital is Seville, and other cities of note include Granada, Ronda, Cadiz, Malaga and Cordoba.
In the era following Columbus’s voyage to the New World, Andalusia enjoyed an economic boom driven by the considerable colonial traffic to the Americas which passed through Andalusian ports. More recently, however, Andalusia has become one of the poorest parts of Spain, with its economy dominated first by the agricultural sector and then by tourism and construction.
Tarifa lies within the province of Cadiz, on the Costa de la Luz. Punta de Tarifa is the southernmost point in continental Europe.
The Castillo Guzmán el Bueno (Spanish for "The castle of Guzman the good"), also called Tarifa Castle, is located near the town. It is more than 800 years old. The coast and mountains of Morocco are visible from its towers.
Africa and Europe lie just 14km apart at the strait that links the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. In the Ancient World, the strait was known as the “Pillars of Hercules”.
The Strait has always been of extreme strategic importance, hence the longstanding British claim on the Rock of Gibraltar. Today, illegal immigration and drug trafficking across the Strait are major challenges for the Spanish authorities.
Tangier lies on the western approach to the Strait of Gibraltar. It has a long and rich history, founded by Carthaginians, later controlled by Phoenicians, Romans, Vandals and then Berbers. The city has been both a Portuguese and an English colony. Tangier was finally reunited with the rest of Morocco in 1956.
Its cosmopolitan culture has attracted spies, rogues, writers like William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, as well as artists like Delacroix and Matisse. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch was set in Tangier, and Interzone was a fictionalised version of the city.
The population has swelled from 250,000 in 1982 to over one million today. The city is an important industrial centre, and is developing a tourism industry based on seaside resorts.
The Sahara covers nine million square kilometres, encompassing most of Northern Africa. It stretches from the Atlantic to the Red Sea, from the Mediterranean to the Sahel. In places, it is rocky or mountainous, but much of the desert is formed of large shifting sand dunes. Other features include gravel plains, salt flats and oases.
The desert is home to the Tuareg, as well as various other Berber and black African tribes.
Al-Fayoum is the largest oasis in Egypt, a fertile basin of 70 square kilometres incorporating two lakes, southwest of Cairo. It has long been a favourite retreat for Egyptians. In fact it is not a true oasis, as its water source is the Nile rather than an isolated spring.
Today, the oasis is home to two million people, and supports significant farming. Its olives are considered the richest in Egypt.
There are over a hundred pyramids in Egypt , built along the west bank of the Nile as tombs for the Pharaohs. The Giza pyramids are some of the largest structures ever built, and the Pyramid of Khufu (Cheops) is the only remaining “Wonder of the Ancient World”.