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Barbary is a European term used for the area of northwest Africa called Maghreb (meaning "West") by the locals. In modern terms, it stretches from Libya to Morocco but has never been a political entity. The name relates to the Greek word "barbaros" (strange, foreign) as the local North Africans were Berbers who were "barbarians" to Europeans as they had a strange sounding language.

Pirates or corsairs working for the Ottoman Empire were based on the Barbary coast. They would raid Mediterranean shipping and islands for the Ottoman sultans and transport their troops.

The spread of the Arabs across the top of Africa in the 7th century quickly led to their invasion of Spain from Morocco.