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The Maghreb, the northernmost part of Africa along the Mediterranean Sea is composed of the countries of Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia. The region has a high degree of geographic, political, social, economic and cultural diversity which influences the region's cuisine and the culinary style.
Common foods and dishes
In North African cuisine, the most common staple foods are wheat, fish, seafood, goat, lamb, beef, dates, almonds, olives and various vegetables and fruits. Because the region is predominantly Muslim, halal meats are usually eaten. Most dishes are spiced, especially with cumin, ginger, paprika, cinnamon and saffron. Fresh peppermint, parsley, or coriander are also very common. Spice mixtures such as ras el hanout, baharat, and chili pastes like harissa (especially in Tunisia) are frequently used. The use of Legumes, nuts, fruits and spices is very prominent.
The best-known North African dish abroad is surely Couscous, made from wheat. The Tajine, a cooking vessel made of clay of Berber origin, is also a common denominator in this region, although what each nation defines as the resulting dish from being cooked in a tajine as well as the associated preparation methods, may be drastically different. For example, a "tajine" in Tunisia is a baked frittata/quiche-like dish, whereas in Morocco it is dish is a slow-cooked stew. The dishes made in the tajine are dishes like the Marqa or albundigas. Pastilla is also an important Arab-Andalusian dish of North-Africa.
The cuisine of the Maghreb, the western region of North Africa that includes the five countries of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Mauritania, is a mix of Mediterranean, Arab, Andalusian, Phoenician and Berber dishes. The eastern part of North Africa (Libya and Egypt) is heavily influenced by Arab and Ottoman Empire, sharing characteristics and similar dishes with much of Ottoman. They are also heavily influenced by many Middle-Eastern dishes like the Falafel. The cuisines of Algeria and Tunisia deriving more influence from French and Italian cuisine respectively and with roots for Tunisia, While Moroccan cuisine is influenced by the Arab and Andalusian cuisine. The Moroccan cuisine itself have roots dating back to the heyday of the kingdom of Numidia modern-day Algeria and kingdom of Mauretania modern-day Morocco.
Most of the North African countries have several similar dishes, sometimes almost the same dish with a different name (the Tunisian coucha and the Moroccan tangia are both essentially the same dish: a meat stew prepared in an urn and cooked overnight in a public oven), sometimes with a slight change in ingredients and cooking style. Additionally, two entirely different dishes may share the same name. There are noticeable differences between the cooking styles of different regions – there are spicy dishes and sophisticated pastries typical of Tunisian cuisine, full-bodied dishes prepared in Moroccan palace cookery, and simpler dishes prepared in various regions and countries.
For more specific styles, refer to the articles on each national or regional cuisine: