Meaning of ATLAS MOUNTAINS in English

The Atlas Mountains. series of mountain ranges in northwestern Africa, running generally southwest to northeast to form the geologic backbone of the countries of the Maghrib (the western region of the Arab world)Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. They extend for more than 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometres), from the Moroccan port of Agadir in the southwest, to the Tunisian capital of Tunis in the northeast. Their thick rim rises to form a high sill separating the Mediterranean basin to the north from the Sahara to the south, thus constituting a barrier that hinders, without completely preventing, communication between the two regions. Across the mountains filter both air masses and human migrations. It is, however, only in the eastwest direction that the Atlas Mountains facilitate movement. These are the conditions that create at the same time both the individuality and the homogeneity of the Atlas countries. Although the Saharan region is more likely to be described as the archetypal North African habitat, it is the well-watered mountains north of this vast desert that provide the foundation for the livelihood of most of the peoples of North Africa and a striking green or white background for many North African towns. series of mountain ranges in northwestern Africa, running generally northeast to southwest through Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. The Atlas system takes the shape of an extended oblong, enclosing a complex of plains and plateaus, and it contains distinct northern and southern ranges named the Tell Atlas and Saharan Atlas, respectively. The ranges rim the extensive High Plateaus of eastern Morocco and northern Algeria. To the east in Tunisia they join together in the Tbessa and Medjerda mountains, while to the west in Morocco they merge into the Middle Atlas and the high, rugged peaks of the High Atlas. The Anti-Atlas extends southwestward from the High Atlas to the Atlantic Ocean. Geologically, the Tell Atlas is a young, folded mountain range related to the Alpine system of Europe. The southern Saharan Atlas, however, belongs to a distinct structural grouping, that of the vast, ancient plateaus of the African continent. The Atlas Mountains have a total length of about 1,200 miles (2,000 km) and reach their maximum elevation at Mount Toubkal, which rises to 13,665 feet (4,165 m). The Atlas Mountains are a meeting place of two different kinds of air masseshumid and cold polar air masses that come from the north and the hot and dry tropical air masses that move up from the south. Winter in the Atlas is hard, imposing severe living conditions upon the inhabitants. These include principally the Berbers, who have survived there, preserving their own language, traditions, and beliefs. The great Maghribian wadis, the Moulouya and the Chelif, issue from the Atlas Mountain ranges. There is considerable erosion aggravated by the sparseness of vegetation. The clearance of land for agriculture has long contributed to the reduction of oak, pine, and cedar forests in the Atlas ranges, but afforestation programs in Algeria and Morocco have helped to reverse this deforestation. The geologic formations are rich in minerals, the most important of these being lead, zinc, copper, iron, manganese, and phosphate. Additional reading The best general treatment of the physical and human geography of the Atlas Mountains is Jean Despois and Ren Raynal, Gographie de l'Afrique du nord-ouest (1967, reissued 1975). A good overview of the region is also offered by J.M. Houston, The Western Mediterranean World: An Introduction to Its Regional Landscapes (1964). Information on livelihood and environmental modifications in the Rif Mountains appears in a short work by Marvin W. Mikesell, Northern Morocco: A Cultural Geography (1961, reprinted 1985). The best one-volume survey of the culture of the peoples of the Atlas region is Ernest Gellner and Charles Micaud (eds.), Arabs and Berbers: From Tribe to Nation in North Africa (1972). Marvin W. Mikesell Study and exploration Attempts by European powers to gain control of northwestern Africa began in the 15th century. Portuguese activity was confined to the Strait of Gibraltar and the Atlantic coast of Morocco, where several forts were established. Spanish activity, initiated at the beginning of the 16th century, included the capture of Mediterranean ports and a slow penetration first of the Rif region and after 1860 into other parts of Morocco. French influence was more extensive. Beginning in 1830 with the capture of Algiers, French control expanded eventually to encompass all but the Rifian part of the Atlas region, including a protectorate over most of Morocco (191256). Road building to control the mountains and to facilitate the movement of peoples and goods enhanced communication in what had been an isolated and fragmented region, often weakly controlled by government authorities based in lowland areas. No longer the focus of European exploration or exploitation, the Atlas Mountains are a conspicuous feature of the independent states of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. Hildebert Isnard Marvin W. Mikesell The economy Resources Despite their inhospitability and relative inaccessibility, the Atlas Mountains have played an important part in the modern development of the Maghribian countries. The mountain massifs constitute catchment areas with considerable potential. The construction of reservoir dams not only has permitted the storage of enormous amounts of water for irrigating the plains but has also made it possible to generate hydroelectric energy. In Morocco efforts have been made in the last half of the 20th century to exploit the potential of the mountain wadis. In addition to the dams across the Wadi el-Abid and the Wadi el-Rhira on the northern slope of the High Atlas, dams on the southern face have been constructed across the Dra and Ziz watercourses. In Algeria the Kabylie region has been developed with hydroelectric stations on the Agrioun and Djendjene wadis. The geologic formations of the Atlas are rich in minerals. The Moroccan High Atlas in particular contains important deposits. Among these the most important economically is phosphate, mined principally in the Khouribga area. Other major deposits include lead and zinc from the Middle Atlas and from the Oujda area and copper, silver, and manganese; the output of manganese mining at Imini and Tiounine is transported to Marrakech by overhead cable cars. Anthracite coal is also mined at Oujda. In Algeria iron ore is extracted from the Seba Chioukh Mountains, from Mount Zaccar Rherbi, and from the areas near Ouenza and Bou Khadra, while phosphate is mined at Mount Onk and El Kouif. Lead and zinc also have become important. In Tunisia the High Tell mountains produce phosphate at Al-Qal'ah al-Jarda', iron ore from Mount Djerissa, and lead from Saqiyat Sidi Yusuf. These raw materials are often processed in the coastal towns. The iron ore from Ouenza, for example, supplies the iron-smelting industry of Annaba. Among forest products, cork is more important than timber; production is centred in the Kabylia region of Algeria, notably on the Collo Massif. The tourist industry also is being developed, particularly in the High Atlas region of Morocco. In the Middle Atlas, long snow-covered slopes suitable for winter sports are located near major towns. In Algeria the establishment of industry in mountain regions is encouraged, to provide employment for the mountain dwellers. At Constantine, the principal city of the mountain regions, as well as at other large cities, a number of industries have been established. Despite these efforts, however, contrasts between the life-styles in the mountains and those in the plains and cities of the Maghrib have by no means diminished, nor are they likely to do so soon. Transportation The Atlas Mountains have their own internal system of communications. Villages are linked by paths that, avoiding the valley bottoms, follow the crest lines of the hills. Travel is on foot or by mule or local bus. The massifs constitute an obstacle to traffic; roads and railroads traverse them by means of tunnels and viaducts, which are costly to build. Traffic between Algiers and Constantine, for example, is obliged to cross the Kabylie Massif; the route runs through the Isser River gorges and crosses the mountains at the Portes de Fer Pass. The Chiffa Gorge cuts across the route between Blida and Mda. The relative impenetrability of the mountains explains why they have been avoided by the main transportation routes and why, consequently, they constitute strongholds of ancient traditionalism. Obstacles to communication should not, however, be exaggerated; the mountains also offer many natural connecting links, or passes, that facilitate movement. Such topographical accidents localize communication routes: between the desert and the plains, the nomads use synclinal corridors (i.e., corridors formed by folds in the rocks in which the strata dip inward from both sides toward the centre) that separate the ridges of the Saharan Atlas range. The Biskra Gap, situated between the Ouled-Nal and Aurs ranges, provides a natural conduit for traffic between Constantine on the Rhumel River and Touggourt in the Sahara. Between Algeria and Morocco both the road and the railroad pass through the Atlas along the Taza Pass, which breaks the continuity of the mountain system between Er-Rif and the Middle Atlas. Passes are natural routes across the mountain barriers and thus constitute strategic points. The focal point of communication in the Great Kabylie, for example, is Tizi Ouzou, at the Gent Pass, which has become in effect the capital of the massif. To surmount the obstacle formed by the Ouarsenis Massif, situated between Chelif Plain and the Sersou Plateau, it is necessary to pass by way of Theniet al-Haad. The passes of the Moroccan High Atlas also have played a decisive role in the history of relations between Morocco and the vast region known as the western Sudan to the south; the ancient caravan route from Marrakech to the Dra valley used the n'Test Pass, which thus became of great commercial importance. The people The mountains, with their inhospitable environment, have provided a refuge for the original inhabitants, who have fled successive invasions. Here the Berber people have survived, preserving their own languages, traditions, and beliefs, while at the same time accepting Islam to some extent. Village communities still live according to a code of customary law, known as kanun, which deals with all questions of property and persons. The family unit traces its descent from a single ancestor, preserving its cohesion by the sense of solidarity that unites its members; an injury to the honour of one affects the group as a whole and demands vengeance. The concern of Berber society to preserve its individuality is evident in the choice of habitat. Villages, which are fortified, are generally perched high up on mountain crests. Small in size, such villages are composed of the dwellings, a mosque, a threshing floor, and a place for the assembly of the elders (jama'ah, or djemaa), which governs the affairs of each community. Families live, each unit apart, in separate rooms that form a square around a closed interior courtyard. Despite the fundamental homogeneity of Berber society, there is a considerable diversity in different mountain localities. The Shluh of the High Atlas in Morocco inhabit the river valleys that cut down deeply into the massif. Their villages, with populations of several hundred inhabitants in each, are often located at an altitude of more than 6,500 feet. They consist of terraced houses, crowded one against the other, that are often dominated by a communal fortified threshing floor, or else are grouped around the threshing floor-plus-dwelling of the most powerful family. The mountain slopes in the vicinity are divided up for pasturage and cultivation. In some fields dry (i.e., nonirrigated) farming is practiced for growing cereals. Land that is irrigated by diverting water from wadis yields two crops a yearcereals in winter and vegetables in summer. The Shluh use manure from their cattle as fertilizer. Oxen and goats penned together on the ground floor of dwellings graze on stubble and on fallow lands around the villages. Sheepherders follow a pattern of transhumance (seasonal migration), grazing their sheep on low-lying land in winter and on the uplands in summer. During the period of the French protectorate in Morocco (191256), profound changes occurred, transforming the way of life of the Middle Atlas populations. The dominant pattern of transhumance gave way to the practice of sedentary agriculture. The winter descent to the plains (azarhar) pasture has become practically a thing of the past, since the land is now under cultivation. The ascent to high pastures in summer, however, still continues. Stock raising in one location is increasingly practiced. Commercial forest products, mainly cork, also bring in an appreciable income. Where the mountain and the plain meet, the dir lands offer rich potentialities, thanks to a light soil and abundant water. Grouped together in large villages, the diara populations (i.e., populations who live on the slope of the dirs) constitute prosperous agricultural communities. The Rif of Morocco and the Kabyle of Algeria resemble each other in many ways. Both Berber tribes, they inhabit the same types of wet-mountain slopes covered with oak forests, are similarly attached to a barren soil, and are both inclined to isolationism. In contrast to the way of life of the Berbers of the High and Middle Atlas, stock raising plays only a secondary role in their village life; they are not so much agriculturalists as arboriculturists, although they grow a little sorgo (a sorghum used for fodder), and women grow vegetables in small gardens adjoining their houses. It is, however, the fig and olive trees covering the mountain slopes they inhabit that constitute their principal resources. The Kabyle are also skilled craftsmen, working with wood, silver, and wool. In the past they were also peddlers, selling carpets and jewelry to the people of the plains. The Aurs Mountains, standing alone in northeastern Algeria, are perhaps the least developed mountain region in the Maghrib. The Shawia (Chaoua) populations who inhabit them follow a seminomadic style of life, which is partly agricultural and partly pastoral. They live in terraced stone villages in which the houses are built in tiers, one above the other, the whole being dominated by a guelaa, or fortified granary. When winter comes, the inhabitants of the high valleys lead their flocks to the lowlands surrounding the massif, where they pitch tents or live in caves. Returning to the uplands in summer, they irrigate the land to grow sorghum and vegetables and maintain apricot and apple orchards, while shepherds take the sheep to pastures on the hilltops. Despite precarious living conditions, the Atlas Mountains are densely populatedoverpopulated even, in certain localities. In the area around Tizi Ouzou in the Great Kabylie, for example, densities reach about 700 persons per square mile (270 per square kilometre). Emigration is a necessity: the mountain regions have become a human reservoir upon which the Maghribian countries draw to obtain the labour force needed for development. Commercial agriculture attracts large numbers of farm workers to the plains either on a seasonal or a permanent basis. The Mitidja Plain of Algeria, for example, has been settled by the Kabyle. In Morocco, the Shluh of the High Atlas have provided labour for the phosphate mines. Urban growth has served to increase the volume of the migratory stream that flows down from the mountains; the cities of Algiers, Constantine, Oran, and Casablanca are to a great extent peopled by mountain folk. The shantytowns of Algiers contain numerous Kabyle, and those of Casablanca many Shluh. Many of these urban immigrants find employment as labourers, while others become shopkeepers. In Algeria the insecurity that became general in most mountain districts during the nationalist uprising that preceded independence led to the departure of large numbers of people. The exodus from the mountains continued after independence, with many mountain dwellers moving into the plains to occupy houses abandoned by departing Europeans. Rural and urban activities, however, still did not provide employment for all, for many emigrants, mostly from Algeria, sought work in France. To a considerable extent the mountain populations subsist on money sent back by these migratory workers.

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