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Peoples Of Africa

Africa is home to about 689 million people - one in eight of the world's population. The most densely populatedareas are along the northern and western coasts, especially in the fertile valleys of the Nile, Niger, Congo, and Senegal rivers. The population of Africa is growing rapidly, as birth rates in many African countries are extremely high. Families are often large, and about half the population is young, below the age of 15. Although most Africans live in the countryside, a growing number are now found in towns and cities. Many people have moved because of poverty and lack of work in country areas; others have gone to escape civil wars, droughts, and famines.


The history of human beings would seem to have begun in Africa. The skeletons of people who walked upright and lived up to 2 million years ago have been found in the Rift Valley that runs through Tanzania and Ethiopia. Archaeologists now believe that this region was the birthplace of our human ancestors. From here, these early human beings, known as Homo Erectus, soon moved into other parts of the continent and rapidly spread even farther afield.


Northwestern africa's smallest country, Tunisia lies between Libya to the south and Algeria to the west. Throughout its history, Tunisia has had close links with Europe. It was at the heart of the ancient empire of Carthage in the 4th century BC, and later became part of the mighty Roman Empire. In the 7th century AD, Tunisia was colonized by Muslim Arabs, and in the early 1880s by French forces. It became independent in 1956. The government has since been restructured and a multi-party System introduced.


Tunisia's warm winter climate and historic sites attract numerous tourists each year. Until 1976, tourism was Tunisia's highest earner of foreign currency. Numbers fell in the early 1980s, but have now risen again to almost 4 million tourists per year. The government has encouraged the building of new hotels and the development of resorts to meet the growing demand. Thousands of Tunisians work in the tourist industry.


One of the liveliest parts of a Tunisian city is the souk, or market. The souk is a maze of narrow, winding streets, each crowded with traders and craftsmen selling their wares. Here, you can buy a wide range of traditional arts and crafts, including copper pots and pans, carpets, leather goods, jewelry, and embroidered cloth. Other stalls sell fish, meat, fruit, and vegetables.


About two-thirds of Tunisia is suitable for farming. Many areas suffer from a lack of rainfall and rely on irrigation to water crops. The main crops include cereals, such as wheat and barley, citrus fruits, grapes, figs, dates, and olives. Tunisia is thé world's fourth largest producer of olive oil. Despite efforts to improve output, however, Tunisia still has to import many basic foods.


It is said that Egypt is the gift of the Nile River. The site of one of the world's fïrst greatt civilizations, Egypt grew up under the rule of the pharaohs along the banks of the Nile more than 5,000 years ago. Most of the country is dry, sandy desert with a narrow, fertile strip that follows the river valley and widens into the delta. This is where the vast majority of Egypt's population lives. Most of the people are Arab and follow the Muslim faith. The economy is dominated by farming, oil, tourism, income from ships passing through the Suez Canal, and money earned by Egyptians working abroad.


With a population of some 9.5 million, Cairo is the largest city in Africa and one of the fastest growing. The city faces terrible housing problems. New arrivais often have to live in dirty, overcrowded slums. Some live among the graves of the City of the Dead, a huge cemetery on the outskirts of the city. People also live on the roofs of the many high-rise buildings in Cairo.


The Suez Canal runs from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. It is the one of the world's largest and most important artificial waterways, providing a shortcut from Europe to India and East Asia. The canal was built with French and British help and was completed in 1869. It has since been made deeper and wider to allow for the increasing size of ships and tankers. In 1956 the canal came under Egyptian control. Today, the tolls taken from the ships that use the canal are an important source of income for the Egyptian government.


Egypt is littered with ancient monuments. Every year, millions of tourists flock to Egypt to see the pyramids and other sites, or to take a boat trip on the Nile River. The pyramids, built more than 4,000 years ago as tombs for the pharaohs, are one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, and the only one to survive.

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