The Atlas Mountains (Arabic: جِـبَـال الْأَطْـلَـس, translit. jibāl al-ʾaṭlas; durar n waṭlas) are a mountain range in the Maghreb. It stretches around 2,500 km (1,600 mi) through Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. The range's highest peak is Toubkal, with an elevation of 4,167 metres (13,671 ft) in southwestern Morocco. It separates the Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines from the Sahara Desert. The Atlas mountains are primarily inhabited by Berber populations. The terms for 'mountain' in some Berber languages are adrar and adras, which are believed to be cognates of the toponym Atlas. The mountains are home to a number of animal and plants unique in Africa, often more like those of Europe; many of them are endangered and some have already gone extinct.
Toubkal Mountain in Toubkal National Park in the High Atlas, Morocco
|Elevation||4,167 m (13,671 ft)|
Location of the Atlas Mountains (red) across North Africa
|Countries||Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia|
|Age of rock||Precambrian|
The basement rock of most of Africa was formed during the Precambrian supereon and is much older than the Atlas Mountains lying on the continent. The Atlas was formed during three subsequent phases of Earth's geology.
The first tectonic deformation phase involves only the Anti-Atlas, which was formed in the Paleozoic Era (~300 million years ago) as the result of continental collisions. North America, Europe and Africa were connected millions of years ago.
The Anti-Atlas Mountains are believed to have originally been formed as part of Alleghenian orogeny. These mountains were formed when Africa and America collided, and were once a chain rivaling today's Himalayas. Today, the remains of this chain can be seen in the Fall Line region in the Eastern United States. Some remnants can also be found in the later formed Appalachians in North America.
A second phase took place during the Mesozoic Era (before ~66 My). It consisted of a widespread extension of the Earth's crust that rifted and separated the continents mentioned above. This extension was responsible for the formation of many thick intracontinental sedimentary basins including the present Atlas. Most of the rocks forming the surface of the present High Atlas were deposited under the ocean at that time.
Finally, in the Paleogene and Neogene Periods (~66 million to ~1.8 million years ago), the mountain chains that today constitute the Atlas were uplifted, as the land masses of Europe and Africa collided at the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula. Such convergent tectonic boundaries occur where two plates slide towards each other forming a subduction zone (if one plate moves underneath the other), and/or a continental collision (when the two plates contain continental crust). In the case of the Africa-Europe collision, it is clear that tectonic convergence is partially responsible for the formation of the High Atlas, as well as for the closure of the Strait of Gibraltar and the formation of the Alps and the Pyrenees. However, there is a lack of evidence for the nature of the subduction in the Atlas region, or for the thickening of the Earth's crust generally associated with continental collisions. In fact, one of the most striking features of the Atlas to geologists is the relative small amount of crustal thickening and tectonic shortening despite the important altitude of the mountain range. Recent studies suggest that deep processes rooted in the Earth's mantle may have contributed to the uplift of the High and Middle Atlas.
The range can be divided into four general regions:
The Anti-Atlas extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the southwest of Morocco toward the northeast to the heights of Ouarzazate and further east to the city of Tafilalt (altogether a distance of approximately 500 kilometres or 310 miles). In the south it borders the Sahara. The easternmost point of the anti-Atlas is the Jbel Saghro range and its northern boundary is flanked by sections of the High Atlas range. It includes the Djebel Siroua, a massif of volcanic origin with the highest summit of the range at 3,304 m. The Jebel Bani is a much lower range running along the southern side of the Anti Atlas.
The High Atlas in central Morocco rises in the west at the Atlantic coast and stretches in an eastern direction to the Moroccan-Algerian border. It has several peaks over 4,000 m (2.5 mi), including the highest summit in North Africa, Toubkal (4,167 m (13,671 ft)) and further east Ighil m'Goun (4,071 m (13,356 ft)) the second major summit of the range. At the Atlantic and to the southwest, the range drops abruptly and makes a transition to the coast and the Anti-Atlas range. To the north, in the direction of Marrakesh, the range descends less abruptly.
On the heights of Ouarzazate the massif is cut through by the Draa Valley which opens southward. It is mainly inhabited by Berber people, who live in small villages and cultivate the high plains of the Ourika Valley.
The Middle Atlas is completely in Morocco and is the northernmost of its main three Atlas ranges. The range lies north of High Atlas, separated by the Moulouya and Oum Er-Rbia rivers, and south of the Rif mountains, separated by the Sebou River. To the west are the main coastal plains of Morocco with many of the major cities and, to the east, the high barren plateau that lies between the Saharan and Tell Atlas. The high point of the range is the jbel Bou Naceur (3340m). The Middle Atlas experiences more rain than the ranges to the south, making it an important water catchment for the coastal plains and important for biodiversity. It is home to the majority of the world's population of Barbary macaque.
The Saharan Atlas of Algeria is the eastern portion of the Atlas mountain range. Though not as high as the Grand Atlas, they are far more imposing than the Tell Atlas range that runs to the north of them and closer to the coast. The highest peak in the range is the 2,236 m (7,336 ft) high Djebel Aissa. They mark the northern edge of the Sahara Desert. The mountains see some rainfall and are better suited to agriculture than the plateau region to the north. Today most of the population of the region are Berbers (Imazighen).
The Tell Atlas is a mountain chain over 1,500 kilometres (930 mi) in length, belonging to the Atlas mountain ranges and stretching from Morocco, through Algeria to Tunisia. It parallels the Mediterranean coast. Together with the Saharan Atlas to the south it forms the northernmost of two more or less parallel ranges which gradually approach one another towards the east, merging in Eastern Algeria. At the western ends at the Middle Atlas range in Morocco. The area immediately to the south of this range is the high plateau of the Hautes Plaines, with lakes in the wet season and salt flats in the dry.
Examples of plants include the Atlas cedar, European black pine, and Algerian oak. Examples of animals included the Atlas bear (extinct), Barbary macaque, Barbary lion (extinct in the wild), Barbary leopard, Barbary stag, Barbary sheep, Atlas Mountain badger, North African elephant (extinct), North African aurochs (extinct), Cuvier's gazelle, Northern bald ibis, dipper, and Atlas mountain viper.
The Anti-Atlas (Arabic: الأطلس الصغير, Berber languages: Aṭlas Ameẓyan), Lesser Atlas or Little Atlas is a mountain range in Morocco, a part of the Atlas Mountains in the northwest of Africa. The Anti-Atlas extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the southwest toward the northeast, to the heights of Ouarzazate and further east to the city of Tafilalt, altogether a distance of approximately 500 km. The range borders on the Sahara to the south.The Anti-Atlas is a desolate world of rocky outcrops and lunar landscapes where the contrasts are extreme. Most of the land is dry and barren, but water gathers and runs in some remote places, forming clear basins. Villages in the area are limited to a few small houses surrounded by palm trees.
In some contexts, the Anti-Atlas is considered separate from the Atlas mountain System, as the term "anti" implies.Atlas languages
The Atlas languages are a subgroup of the Northern Berber languages spoken in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. By mutual intelligibility, they are a single language spoken by perhaps 14 million people; however, they are distinct sociolinguistically and are considered separate languages by the Royal institute of the Amazigh culture. They are:
Central Atlas Tamazight (Central Atlas Berber), spoken in the central Atlas Mountains
Shilha (Tashelhiyt; also rendered Tachelhit, Tasusit; includes Judeo-Berber and perhaps the extinct Lisan al-Gharbi), spoken in southern Morocco
Senhaja de Srair, spoken in the southern part of the Rif
Ghomara, spoken in the western part of the RifAurès Mountains
The Aures Mountains (Berber languages: ⵉⴷⵓⵔⴰⵔ ⵏ ⴰⵡⵔⴰⵙ, Latin: Aurasium, Arabic: جِـبَـال الْأَوْرَاس, translit. Jibāl al-Awrās) are an eastern prolongation of the Atlas Mountain System that lies to the east of the Saharan Atlas in northeastern Algeria, North Africa. The mountain range gives its name to the mountainous natural and historical region of the Aures.Berber cuisine
The Amazigh (Berber) cuisine is a traditional cuisine with a varied history and influence of numerous flavours from distinct regions across North Africa. The traditional cuisine draws influences from Morocco's Atlas mountains and heavily populated Berber cities and regions, as well as Algeria's Berber cities and regions.
Berber cuisine differs from one area to another within North Africa. For this reason, every dish has a distinct and unique identity according to the specific region it originates from in North Africa, with some dishes estimated to be more than a thousand years old. Zayanes of the region of Khénifra around the Middle Atlas have a cuisine of a remarkable simplicity. It is based primarily on corn, barley, ewe's milk, goat cheese, butter, honey, meat, and game. Popular authentic Berber preparations of Tunisian, Moroccan, Algerian, and Libyan cuisine include tajine, couscous, shakshouka, pastilla, msemen, merguez, asida, lablabi, harissa, makroudh, harira, sfenj, and ahriche.Cedrus atlantica
Cedrus atlantica, the Atlas cedar, is a cedar native to the Atlas Mountains of Morocco (Middle Atlas, High Atlas), to the Rif, and to the Tell Atlas in Algeria. A majority of the modern sources treat it as a distinct species Cedrus atlantica, but some sources consider it a subspecies of Lebanon cedar (C. libani subsp. atlantica).Central Pangean Mountains
The Central Pangean Mountains were an extensive northeast-southwest trending mountain range in the central portion of the supercontinent Pangaea during the Triassic period. They were formed as a result of collision between the minor supercontinents Laurussia and Gondwana during the formation of Pangaea. Remnants of this massive mountain range include the Appalachian Mountains of North America, the Little Atlas of Morocco, Africa and much of the Scottish Highlands including Ben Nevis.
A number of mountain building periods were involved in the formation of the Central Pangean Mountains, including the Acadian, Caledonian, Alleghenian and Mauritanide orogenies.Cupressus atlantica
Cupressus atlantica, the Moroccan cypress, is a rare coniferous tree endemic to the valley of the Oued n'Fiss river in the High Atlas Mountains south of Marrakech in western Morocco. The majority are old, with very little regeneration due to overgrazing by goats.
This species is distinct from the allied Cupressus sempervirens (Mediterranean cypress) in its much bluer foliage with a white resin spot on each leaf, the smaller shoots often being flattened in a single plane. It also has smaller, globose cones, only 1.5-2.5 cm long. Cupressus dupreziana (Saharan cypress) is more similar, and C. atlantica is treated as a variety of it (C. dupreziana var. atlantica) by some authors. Moroccan cypress does not however share the unique reproductive system of male apomixis found in Saharan cypress.Dadès Gorges
The Dadès Gorges (Arabic: وادي دادس; French: Gorges du Dadès) are a series of rugged wadi gorges carved out by the Dadès River in Morocco. The river originates in the High Atlas range of the Atlas mountains, flowing some 350 kilometres (220 mi) southwest before joining the Draa River at the edge of the Sahara. The many-colored walls of the gorges range anywhere from 200 to 500 meters (650 to 1600 feet).Euphorbia resinifera
Euphorbia resinifera, the resin spurge, is a species of spurge native to Morocco, where it occurs on the slopes of the Atlas Mountains. The dried latex of the plant was used in ancient medicine. It contains resiniferatoxin, a capsaicin analog tested as an analgesic since 1997.High Atlas
High Atlas, also called the Grand Atlas Mountains (Arabic: اَلْأَطْـلَـس الْـكَـبِـيْـر, translit. Al-Aṭlas al-Kabīr; French: Haut Atlas; Berber languages: ⴰⴷⵔⴰⵔ ⵏ ⴷⵔⵏ) is a mountain range in central Morocco, North Africa.
The High Atlas rises in the west at the Atlantic Ocean and stretches in an eastern direction to the Moroccan-Algerian border. At the Atlantic and to the southwest the range drops abruptly and makes an impressive transition to the coast and the Anti-Atlas range. To the north, in the direction of Marrakech, the range descends less abruptly.
The range includes Jbel Toubkal, which at 4,167 m (2.589 mi; 13,671 ft) is the highest in the range and lies in Toubkal National Park.
The range serves as a weather system barrier in Morocco running east-west and separating the Sahara from the Mediterranean and continental zones to the north and west. In the higher elevations of the massif, snow falls regularly, allowing winter sports. Snow lasts well into late spring in the High Atlas, mostly on the northern faces of the range. On the Western High Atlas, there is Oukaïmeden, one of three main ski stations in Morocco.
The High Atlas forms the basins for a multiplicity of river systems. The majority of the year-round rivers flow to the north, providing the basis for the settlements there. A number of wadis and seasonal rivers terminate in the deserts to the south and plateaux to the east of the mountains.
The High-Atlas Mountains are inhabited by Berbers, who live from agriculture and pastoralism in the valleys. In the steppe zone of the High-Atlas, where precipitations are low, the locals created a smart technique in managing the low precipitations and the weak soil. They turn the rather semi-arid lands into fertile valleys called locally by Agdal (garden in Berber). This technique has intrigued many Western agriculturalists, in which they were impressed by the high efficiency of this agricultural system. Many scientists, particularly French scientists, make yearly expeditions to observe the community and their living system.Kairouan Governorate
Kairouan Governorate (Tunisian Arabic: ولاية قيروان Wilāyat Qiyrwān) is one of the twenty-four governorates of Tunisia. It is landlocked and in the centre-east of the country. It covers an area of 6,712 km² and has a population of 570,559 (2014 census). The narrower province of Sousse borders it to the east, the nearest coastline The capital is Kairouan. Lowland parts of the province are semi-arid, experiencing in most years light rains in the winter months and scant rainfall in other months but higher parts attract relief precipitation in and around the Djebel Zhagdoud and a large part of the Djebel Serj national parks, in the north-east of the province which are geologically outcrops of the Dorsal Atlas mountains in the province to the north.Kef Governorate
Kef Governorate (Tunisian Arabic: ولاية الكاف Wilāyat el-Kāf pronounced [lkæːf]) is one of the twenty-four governorates of Tunisia. It comprises chiefly part of the dorsal Atlas Mountains and their foothills in north-western Tunisia, bordering Algeria. It covers an area of 4,965 km² and has a population of 243,156 (2014 census). The capital is El Kef.Maghreb
The Maghreb (; Arabic: المغرب, translit. al-Maɣréb, lit. 'The West'), also known as Northwest Africa or Northern Africa, Greater Arab Maghreb (Arabic: المغرب العربي الكبير, translit. al-Maghrib al-ʿArabi al-Kabir), Arab Maghreb (Arabic: المغرب العربي, translit. al-Maghrib al-ʿArabi) or Greater Maghreb (Arabic: المغرب الكبير, translit. al-Maghrib al-Kabīr), or by some sources the Berber world, Barbary and Berbery, is a major region of North Africa that consists primarily of the countries Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Mauritania. It additionally includes the disputed territories of Western Sahara (mostly controlled by Morocco) and the cities of Melilla and Ceuta (both controlled by Spain and claimed by Morocco). As of 2018, the region has a population of over 100 million people.
In historical English and European literature, the region was known as the Barbary Coast or the Barbary States, derived from the native Berbers. Sometimes it was referred to as the Land of the Atlas, derived from the Atlas Mountains. In current Berber language media and literature, the region is part of what is known as Tamazgha.
The region is usually defined as much or most of northern Africa, including a large portion of Africa's Sahara Desert, and excluding Egypt, which is part of Mashriq. The traditional definition of the region that restricted it to the Atlas Mountains and the coastal plains of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya was expanded by the inclusion of Mauritania and of the disputed territory of Western Sahara.
During the era of Al-Andalus in the Iberian Peninsula (711–1492), the Maghreb's inhabitants, the Muslim Berbers or Maghrebis, were known by Europeans as "Moors", or as "Afariqah" (Roman Africans). Morocco transliterates into Arabic as "al-Maghreb" (The Maghreb).
Before the establishment of modern nation states in the region during the 20th century, Maghreb most commonly referred to a smaller area, between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlas Mountains in the south. It often also included the territory of eastern Libya, but not modern Mauritania. As recently as the late 19th century, Maghreb was used to refer to the Western Mediterranean region of coastal North Africa in general, and to Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, in particular.The region was somewhat unified as an independent political entity during the rule of the Berber kingdom of Numidia, which was followed by the Roman Empire's rule or influence. That was followed by the brief invasion of the Germanic Vandals, the equally brief re-establishment of a weak Roman rule by the Byzantine Empire, the rule of the Islamic Caliphates under the Umayyad Caliphate, the Abbasid Caliphate and the Fatimid Caliphate. The most enduring rule was that of the local Berber empires of the Almoravid dynasty, Almohad Caliphate, Hammadid dynasty, Zirid dynasty, Marinid dynasty, Zayyanid dynasty, and Wattasid dynasty - from the 8th to 13th centuries. The Ottoman Empire for a period also controlled parts of the region.
Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, and Libya established the Arab Maghreb Union in 1989 to promote cooperation and economic integration in a common market. It was envisioned initially by Muammar Gaddafi as a superstate. The union included Western Sahara implicitly under Morocco's membership, putting Morocco's long cold war with Algeria to a rest. However, this progress was short-lived, and the union is now dormant. Tensions between Algeria and Morocco over Western Sahara re-emerged, reinforced by the unsolved border dispute between the two countries. These two main conflicts have hindered progress on the union's joint goals and practically made it inactive as a whole. However, the instability in the region and growing cross-border security threats revived the calls for regional cooperation, with foreign ministers of the Arab Maghreb Union declaring a need for coordinated security policy in May 2015 at the 33rd session of the follow-up committee meeting, which revived hope of some form of cooperation.Middle Atlas
The Middle Atlas (Amazigh: ⴰⵟⵍⴰⵙ ⴰⵏⴰⵎⵎⴰⵙ, Atlas Anammas, Arabic: الأطلس المتوسط, al-Aṭlas al-Mutawassiṭ) is a mountain range in Morocco. It is part of the Atlas mountain range, a vast mountainous region with more than 100,000 km2, 15 percent of its landmass, rising above 2,000 metres. The Middle Atlas is the northernmost and second highest of three main Atlas Mountains chains of Morocco. To south, separated by the Moulouya and Um Er-Rbiâ rivers, lies the High Atlas. The Middle Atlas form the westernmost end of a large plateaued basin extending eastward into Algeria, also bounded by the Tell Atlas to the north and the Saharan Atlas to the south, both lying largely in Algeria. North of the Middle Atlas and separated by the Sebou River, lie the Rif mountains which are an extension of the Baetic System, which includes the Sierra Nevada in the south of Spain. The basin of the Sebou is not only the primary transportation route between Atlantic Morocco and Mediterranean Morocco but is an area, watered by the Middle Atlas range, that constitutes the principal agricultural region of the country.
The Barbary macaque is native to the Middle Atlas, and chief populations occur only in restricted range in parts of Morocco and Algeria. Snow persists in the Middle Atlas in the winter and can appear starting at 600 m above sea level.Oukaïmeden
Oukaïmeden (Berber: Ukayemdan) is a ski resort in the Atlas mountains near Jebel Toubkal, about 80 kilometres (50 mi) from Marrakesh, Morocco.
The skiing area is at an altitude of between 2,600 metres (8,500 ft) and 3,200 metres (10,500 ft) and has six ski lifts. There are some hotels and ski rental facilities nearby.Ouled Naïl
The Ouled Naïl (; Arabic: أولاد نايل) are a tribe and a tribal confederation living in the Ouled Naïl Range, Algeria. They are found mainly in Bou Saâda, M'Sila and Djelfa, but there is also a significant number of them in Ghardaïa Province, beyond their ancestral region.Saharan Atlas
The Saharan Atlas (Arabic: الأطلس الصحراوي) is a range of the Atlas Mountain System. It is located mainly in Algeria, with its eastern end in Tunisia. Although not as tall as the High Atlas of Morocco its summits are more imposing than the Tell Atlas range that runs parallel closer to the coast. The tallest peak in the range is the 2,236 m (7,336 ft) high Djebel Aissa in the Ksour Range.Tell Atlas
The Tell Atlas (Arabic: الاطلس التلي) is a mountain chain over 1,500 km (932 mi) in length, belonging to the Atlas mountain ranges in North Africa, stretching from Morocco, through Algeria to Tunisia.
The ranges of this system have average elevations of about 1,500 m (4,900 ft) and form a natural barrier between the Mediterranean and the Sahara. Its highest summit is the 2,308 m (7,572 ft) high Lalla Khedidja in the Jurjura Range.Several large cities such as the Algerian capital, Algiers, with ~1,500,000 residents (2005) and Oran with ~770,000 residents (2005) lie at the base of the Tell Atlas. The Algerian city Constantine with approximately 505,000 residents (2005) lies 80 km inland and directly in the mountains at 650 meters in elevation. A number of smaller towns and villages are situated within the Tell; for example, Chiffa is nestled within the Chiffa gorge.Toubkal
Toubkal or Tubkal (Berber: ⵜⵓⴳⴳ ⴽⴰⵍ Tugg kal; Arabic: توبقال Tūbqāl) is a mountain peak in southwestern Morocco, located in the Toubkal National Park. At
4,167 metres (13,671 ft), it is the highest peak in the Atlas Mountains, Morocco, North Africa and the Arab World. Located 63 km (39 mi) south of the city of Marrakesh, it is an ultra prominent peak, the highest for over 2,000 km (1,200 mi) and a popular destination for climbers.