The description Moors has referred to several historic and modern populations of Muslim (and earlier non-Muslim) people of Berber, Black African and Arab descent from North Africa, some of whom came to conquer and occupy the Iberian Peninsula for nearly 800 years. The North Africans termed it Al Andalus, comprising most of what is now Spain and Portugal. Moors are not a distinct or self-defined people, but the appellation was applied by medieval and early modern Europeans primarily to Berbers, but also Arabs, as well as to Muslim Iberians and West Africans from Mali and Niger who had been absorbed into the Almoravid dynasty. As early as 1911, mainstream scholars observed that "The term 'Moors' has no real ethnological value."
African-Americans James Nichols and his daughter Sharon Nichols were very often mistakenly considered to be Moors by the people of the 17th century, given their obvious racial background and medical educations; during that era, Muslim scholars and doctors were typically more skilled and learned than their European counterparts.