Thinking Citizen Blog — Mountains of the World (VII): The Atlas Mountains of North Africa
Thinking Citizen Blog — Wednesday is Climate Change, the Environment, and Sustainability Day
Today’s Topic — Mountains of the World (VII): The Atlas Mountains of North Africa
The Atlas mountains separate the coastal regions of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia from the Sahara desert. The region is called the “Mahgreb” and the inhabitants are mostly Berbers. The range is roughly 1600 miles in length and its highest peak is in southwestern Morocco — Mt. Toubkai (13,671 feet). To me the most amazing factoid about the Atlas is that they once touched the Appalachians as part of one super continent, Pangea. Last time, the Appalachians. Today, the Atlas. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
MOROCCO: the Anti-Atlas (south and west), the High Atlas (middle), and the Middle Atlas (northern most, name misleading)
1. The Anti-Atlas is about 300 miles long and also goes by the names of “Little Atlas” or “Lesser Atlas.” Includes the Ouarzazate region which is extremely popular among Hollywood directors. Films shot there include: Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Gladiator (2000). Not to mention parts of Game of Thrones. Atlas Studios, founded in 1983 by Mohamed Belghmi, is the largest film studio in the world (as measured by acreage).
2. The High Atlas in central Morocco stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Algerian border. Includes Jbel Toubkai (above), the highest peak, which is visible from Marakech — the “Red City” famous for its red stone and rich history dating back to 1070 when it was founded by Emir Abu Bakr ibn Umar as the capital of the Almoravid Empire. A near by ski resort is Oukaimeden.
3. The Middle Atlas in northern Morocco: separated from the High Atlas by the Moulouya and Um-Er-Rbia Rivers, second highest of the ranges with at least one ski resort (Ifrana). The region is most famous for the Barbary Macaque monkey, distinguished by the role of fathers in bringing up their young and by their presence on the Rock of Gibraltar.
NB: the Rif Mountains across the Straits of Gibraltar from Spain are actually not part of the Atlas ranges. They are part of the Baetic system of southern Spain.
ALGERIA — THE TELL ATLAS AND THE SAHARAN ATLAS
1. Tell Atlas: 932 miles in length run parallel to the Mediterranean coast from Morocco to Tunisia. In Algeria both Algiers, the capital, and Oran, its second largest city lie at their base.
2. Saharan Atlas: “The mountains have also long been home to exiles expelled from the fertile coastal regions.” Famous for its “wadis” (that is rivers that are only wet part of the year)
3. The Great Western and the Great Eastern Ergs; between the Tell and Saharan Atlas are two great expanses of sandy land without any vegetative cover called “ergs” or “seas of sand.”
NB: Algeria, the largest country in Africa is fourth-fifths desert but its Arabic name Al Jazair means the islands because it is named after the town of Algiers which is on the coast whose harbor is full of small islands!!!!
TUNISIA — THE AURES — a Berber haven from Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, and Arabs
1. A continuation of the Saharan and Tell Atlas into Tunisia.
2. Jebel Ech Chambi is the highest peak in Tunisia (5066 feet) and is capped with a pine forest.
3. “Since December 2012, Jebel ech Chambi has been the theatre of many military operations of Tunisian armed forces against groups of Islamist terrorists hidden in the caves of the mountain.”
NB: Tunisia with a population of 12 million, a coastline of 713 miles, and a super rich history dating back to Carthage and beyond, is today the only North African country rated “free” by Freedom House and the only fully democratic state in the Arab world as measured by The Economist’s Democracy Index. It was the Tunisian Revolution of 2011 (the “Jasmine Revolution”) that triggered the “Arab Spring.” But only Tunisia successfully navigated the transition to democracy.
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This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your own mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply than otherwise about something dear to your heart.