Arabic: ‘al-jibāl ‘al-‘atlas
On the road in the middle of the Middle Atlas next to the river Ziz. Photo: Guillen Perez.
The mountainous area that fills most of the northwestern corner of Africa. The Atlas is divided into 5 regions, and stretch from Morocco, through northern Algeria, until it touches Tunisia. The northernmost area of Morocco belongs to the Rif Mountains, which is not a part of the Atlas.
Morocco has the Middle Atlas, High Atlas, and Anti Atlas. The High Atlas is the highest, with Toubkal Mountain stretching to 4,165 meters. Anti Atlas does not reach higher than 2531 meters at the most, but still has some of the most rugged landscape. The Middle Atlas reaches 3,350 meters.
Algeria takes part in the Atlas with the Saharan Atlas, and the Tell, which starts around the middle of Algeria, before wending its course along the Algerian coast, touching Tunisia, and offering the only mountainous area of this country. The Saharan Atlas reaches as high as 2,328 meters (Jabal Chelia), while the Tell has its highest peak at 2,308 meters.
Geologically, the Atlas was formed in two phases. The western part was formed first, while the eastern part was formed later, and at the same time as the Alps of Europe.
The Atlas mountains contain many fertile valleys since the high peaks force the clouds to give away large quantities of rainfall. While there were many forests in the Atlas earlier, much of this has been exploited, and the cedar, once very common, are almost totally gone.
But there are still many unexploited resources of the mountains. and there are mineral deposits of gold, silver, lead, zinc, iron, manganese, antimony, phosphates, and petroleum.
Many millions of people live in the Atlas Mountains, almost all of them counting themselves as Berbers, except in Tunisia, where the locals regard themselves as Arabs.