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High Atlas

High Atlas

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High Atlas, also called the Grand Atlas Mountains
Atlas Mountains
The Atlas Mountains is a mountain range across a northern stretch of Africa extending about through Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. The highest peak is Toubkal, with an elevation of in southwestern Morocco. The Atlas ranges separate the Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines from the Sahara Desert...

 ( and ) is a mountain range
Mountain range
A mountain range is a single, large mass consisting of a succession of mountains or narrowly spaced mountain ridges, with or without peaks, closely related in position, direction, formation, and age; a component part of a mountain system or of a mountain chain...

 in central Morocco
Morocco
Morocco , officially the Kingdom of Morocco , is a country located in North Africa. It has a population of more than 32 million and an area of 710,850 km², and also primarily administers the disputed region of the Western Sahara...

 in Northern Africa.

The High Atlas rises in the west at the Atlantic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
The Atlantic Ocean is the second-largest of the world's oceanic divisions. With a total area of about , it covers approximately 20% of the Earth's surface and about 26% of its water surface area...

 and stretches in an eastern direction to the Moroccan-Algeria
Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

n border. At the Atlantic and to the southwest the range drops abruptly and makes an impressive transition to the coast and the Anti-Atlas
Anti-Atlas
The Anti-Atlas or 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,...

 range. To the north, in the direction of Marrakech
Marrakech
Marrakech or Marrakesh , known as the "Ochre city", is the most important former imperial city in Morocco's history...

, the range descends less abruptly.

The range includes Jbel Toubkal, which at 4,167 m is the highest in the range and lies in Toubkal National Park
Toubkal National Park
Toubkal National Park is a national park in the High Atlas mountain range, 70 kilometres from Marrakech in central-western Morocco. Established in 1942, it covers an area of 380 km2...

.
The range serves as a weather system barrier in Morocco running east-west and separating the Sahara
Sahara
The Sahara is the world's second largest desert, after Antarctica. At over , it covers most of Northern Africa, making it almost as large as Europe or the United States. The Sahara stretches from the Red Sea, including parts of the Mediterranean coasts, to the outskirts of the Atlantic Ocean...

's climatic influences, which are particularly pronounced in the summer, from the more Mediterranean climate
Mediterranean climate
A Mediterranean climate is the climate typical of most of the lands in the Mediterranean Basin, and is a particular variety of subtropical climate...

 to the north, resulting in dramatic changes in temperature across the range. In the higher elevations in the range snow falls regularly, allowing winter sport
Winter sport
A winter sport is a sport which is played on snow or ice. Most such sports are variations of skiing, ice skating and sledding. Traditionally such sports were only played in cold areas during winter, but artificial snow and ice allow more flexibility...

s. Snow lasts well into late spring in the High Atlas, mostly on the northern faces of the range.

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 wadi
Wadi
Wadi is the Arabic term traditionally referring to a valley. In some cases, it may refer to a dry riverbed that contains water only during times of heavy rain or simply an intermittent stream.-Variant names:...

s and seasonal rivers terminate in the deserts to the south and plateaux to the east of the mountains.

Western High Atlas


In the west lies the oldest portion of the range. Its high point is the Jbel Toubkal at 4167 m, which is visible from the city of Marrakech
Marrakech
Marrakech or Marrakesh , known as the "Ochre city", is the most important former imperial city in Morocco's history...

. Jbel Toubkal lies in the Toubkal national park, which was created in 1942. The massif consists of Jurassic
Jurassic
The Jurassic is a geologic period and system that extends from about Mya to  Mya, that is, from the end of the Triassic to the beginning of the Cretaceous. The Jurassic constitutes the middle period of the Mesozoic era, also known as the age of reptiles. The start of the period is marked by...

 and Cretaceous
Cretaceous
The Cretaceous , derived from the Latin "creta" , usually abbreviated K for its German translation Kreide , is a geologic period and system from circa to million years ago. In the geologic timescale, the Cretaceous follows the Jurassic period and is followed by the Paleogene period of the...

 formations notched by deep erosion-carved valleys. This part of the range includes the Ourika Valley, which is the only location in the High Atlas where the endangered primate
Primate
A primate is a mammal of the order Primates , which contains prosimians and simians. Primates arose from ancestors that lived in the trees of tropical forests; many primate characteristics represent adaptations to life in this challenging three-dimensional environment...

, the Barbary Macaque
Barbary Macaque
The Barbary Macaque , or Common macaque, is a macaque with no tail. Found in the Atlas Mountains of Algeria and Morocco with a small population, of unknown origin, in Gibraltar, the Barbary Macaque is one of the best-known Old World monkey species. Besides humans, they are the only primates that...

, Macaca sylvanus, is found; however, this primate is also found in parts of the Middle Atlas
Middle Atlas
The Middle Atlas is part of the Atlas mountain range lying in Morocco, a mountainous country with more than 100,000 km² or 15% of its landmass rising above 2,000 metres. The Middle Atlas is the northernmost of three Atlas Mountains chains that define a large plateaued basin extending eastward...

 and the Rif
Rif
The Rif or Riff is a mainly mountainous region of northern Morocco, with some fertile plains, stretching from Cape Spartel and Tangier in the west to Ras Kebdana and the Melwiyya River in the east, and from the Mediterranean Sea in the north to the river of Wergha in the south.It is part of the...

, as well as parts of Algeria
Algeria
Algeria , officially the People's Democratic Republic of Algeria , also formally referred to as the Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of Northwest Africa with Algiers as its capital.In terms of land area, it is the largest country in Africa and the Arab...

. The Ourika Valley is also a location where a diverse flora was recorded as early as the 19th century.

Central High Atlas


A solid chalk mass morphologically dominated by tabular zones reaching an altitude of 2,500 m extends from Azilal to Ouarzazate. Here, the contrasting landscapes remind visitors of the Colorado, with its high plateaux, its gorges and box canyon
Canyon
A canyon or gorge is a deep ravine between cliffs often carved from the landscape by a river. Rivers have a natural tendency to reach a baseline elevation, which is the same elevation as the body of water it will eventually drain into. This forms a canyon. Most canyons were formed by a process of...

s, and its peaks sometimes splintered by erosion. Several peaks in this area exceed 4000 m, with Jbel Mgoun
M'Goun
The M'Goun mountain, also rendered as Ighil Mgoun, Ighil n’Oumsoud, Irhil M’Goun, Ighil M’Goun, Jebel Mgoun, Jebel Ighil M’Goun and Jebel Aït M’goun, at 4,071 metres is the fourth highest peak of the Atlas Mountains . It is located in the Souss-Massa-Draâ region of Morocco....

 at 4068 m being the highest peak in this part of the High Atlas. The area is populated by Berbers
Berber people
Berbers are the indigenous peoples of North Africa west of the Nile Valley. They are continuously distributed from the Atlantic to the Siwa oasis, in Egypt, and from the Mediterranean to the Niger River. Historically they spoke the Berber language or varieties of it, which together form a branch...

.

Eastern High Atlas



The eastern part of the High Atlas forms vast plateaux at high altitude which provide the headwaters for the Moulouya River
Moulouya River
The Moulouya River is a 520 km-long river in Morocco. Its sources are located in the Middle Atlas. It empties into the Mediterranean Sea near Saidia, in Northeast Morocco at about . Water level in the river often fluctuates. The river is used for irrigation...

. It extends from the town of Khenifra
Khenifra
Khenifra is a city in northern central Morocco, surrounded by the Atlas Mountains.-External links:*...

 and includes oases at Jbel Ayachi
Jbel Ayachi
Jbel Ayachi is one of the highest mountains in North Africa, and anchors the Eastern High Atlas in central Morocco. Jbel Ayachi rises to 3747m above sea level....

 (at 3747 m), Jbel Saghro and Jbel Sirwa (3305 m). This portion of the range includes the solid mass of the Tamlelt whose northern edge is occupied by its higher peaks, such Jbel Ayachi
Jbel Ayachi
Jbel Ayachi is one of the highest mountains in North Africa, and anchors the Eastern High Atlas in central Morocco. Jbel Ayachi rises to 3747m above sea level....

 at 3,747 m. The altitude falls towards the east where the mountains join the pre-Saharan zone.

This massif became an internationally famous paleontological site after the discovery of the bones of the completely unknown ancestor of the dinosaurs, Atlasaurus
Atlasaurus
Atlasaurus was a moderately large genus of sauropod dinosaur from Middle Jurassic beds in North Africa.-Discovery and species:Atlasaurus was discovered by Monbaron, Russell & Taquet in 1999...

, which populated Morocco 180 million years ago. This dinosaur is also named Tazoudasaurus
Tazoudasaurus
Tazoudasaurus is a genus of vulcanodontid sauropod dinosaur hailing from the Early Jurassic Toundoute overthrust beds located in the High Moroccan Atlas Mountains. The remains, consisting of a partial adult skeleton and associated partial juvenile skeleton found in continental detrital sediments,...

, after the name of the village of Tazouda where it was discovered. The creature, about nine metres long, is postulated to be an ancestor of the Sauropoda
Sauropoda
Sauropoda , or the sauropods , are an infraorder of saurischian dinosaurs. They had long necks, long tails, small heads , and thick, pillar-like legs. They are notable for the enormous sizes attained by some species, and the group includes the largest animals to have ever lived on land...

 found in America. Until 140 million years ago the African and American continents were connected.

Areas of interest


Travel over the high mountain passes is worthwhile. At the foot of the High Atlas one finds Aït Benhaddou
Aït Benhaddou
Aït Benhaddou is a 'fortified city', or ksar, along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech in present-day Morocco. It is situated in Souss-Massa-Draâ on a hill along the Ounila River and has some beautiful examples of kasbahs, which unfortunately sustain damage during each...

, a Kasbah
Kasbah
A kasbah or qassabah is a type of medina, Islamic city, or fortress .It was a place for the local leader to live and a defense when a city was under attack. A kasbah has high walls, usually without windows. Sometimes, they were built on hilltops so that they could be more easily defended...

 or castle still in use.http://jp.youtube.com/watch?v=WLgTuvWCAsM&NR=1 Among the summits at 1600 m height lies the Kasbah of Telouet
Telouet
Telouet is a Kasbah along the former route of the caravans from the Sahara over the Atlas Mountains to Marrakech. It lies at an elevation of and was the seat of the El Glaoui family's power. The palace can still be visited but it is steadily becoming more damaged and is slowly collapsing...

 on the road to Marrakech
Marrakech
Marrakech or Marrakesh , known as the "Ochre city", is the most important former imperial city in Morocco's history...

.

The canyons and ravines of the Dadès
Dadès Gorges
Dadès Gorges, , is a gorge of the Dadès River and lies between the Atlas Mountains and Anti-Atlas mountain range, in Morocco, at .Berbers built many kasbahs in vicinity of gorges with defence purposes. These many kasbahs with combination of natural beauty contributes to high tourist attractivity...

 and the Todra
Todra Gorge
Todra Gorge is a canyon in the eastern part of the High Atlas Mountains in Morocco, near the town of Tinerhir. Both the Todra and neighbouring Dades Rivers have carved out cliff-sided canyons on their final through the mountains. The last of the Todra gorge are the most spectacular...

are also impressive.

External links



Photo gallery