MOROCCO, LAND OF CINEMA
Morocco, a name that evokes the Cherifian palaces surrounded by sumptuous gardens, the souks from which emanate the mysterious smell of spices, fantasia and dazzling rituals. But it would be a shame to leave it all to this colourful theatre set. The important thing in Morocco is what goes on behind the scenes. Thus, in a medina, it is by leaving the widest streets that you can immerse yourself in the popular life of Morocco and by leaving the alleys to reach dark dead ends that you will find the most beautiful doors of the city, those behind which the most luxurious palaces flourish. In the same way, it is by going respectfully to meet people that you will discover the real Morocco. The country will let you glimpse its deepest secrets. Finally, Morocco is also a succession of superb and varied landscapes, oscillating between coastal environment, mountainous topography (with sometimes snowy summits), green valleys, fertile plains, desert plateaus and oases. Located in north-west Africa, its long coast overlooks the Atlantic Ocean and ends beyond the Strait of Gibraltar on the Mediterranean Sea. In the south of Morocco lies the Sahara. To the east and southeast, Morocco borders Algeria. A short distance from the Atlantic coast are the Canary Islands and Madeira. North of the Strait of Gibraltar lies Spain. The administrative capital of Morocco is Rabat. Among the large cities of note are Casablanca, Agadir, Fez, Marrakech, Meknes, Tetouan, Tangier, Oujda.
The highest peaks in North Africa:
The mountains occupy more than two thirds of the Moroccan territory and reach significant heights. Several peaks exceed the 4,000m mark. The Djebel Toubkal, the highest peak in the country, reaches 4,167m. Morocco has four main mountain ranges and is the only country in the Maghreb to have a huge mountain range, the Atlas. First in the north of the country, the mountains or Rif Djebel border the Mediterranean. The highest peak of the Rif, Djebel Tidirhine reaches 2,456m. The Rif offers varied landscapes according to the altitudes of its regions. In fact, in the west, there are mainly thorny vegetation and firs, pines and cedars. On the other side, arid steppes and scrublands can be found, and even further to the east, hemp flourishes, although it is not harvested. Further away from the Mediterranean shores and further inland, there are three other major ranges, the Middle Atlas, the High Atlas and the Anti-Atlas, where once again a diversity of landscapes can be found. The Middle Atlas, which is the "water tower" of Morocco, is separated from the Rif by the arid plains of the east and the fertile plains of the west. The two chains are separated by the famous Taza Gap. The Middle Atlas consists of two parts with very different landscapes. In the east, we find the steep massifs with peaks reaching over 3,100m such as Djebel Bou Naceur or Bouiblane. These summits experience heavy snowfalls. Towards the west, the chain softens to give way to more moderate terrain and gives way to a few small plateaus. The Middle Atlas chain is bordered to the south by the High Atlas. It is in the High Atlas, a majestic chain that girdles the country from east to west, that the Toubkal peaks at nearly 4,167m.
These plains often have very large expanses, stretching from the Rif mountains to the Middle Atlas. The Sebou basin (36,000 km2) is made up of low plateaus, rivers, a few hills and fertile plains that allow the cultivation of a number of crops. In the Gharb plain, there are fields of sugar beet, rice, sugar cane and tobacco. This plain is distinguished from the others by the presence of the forest of Maamora where cork oaks and eucalyptus trees are cultivated. Vast plains appear as soon as you go beyond the country of Zaïr and the phosphate plateau. We find the Chaouia, the Doukkala and, further east at the foot of the Middle Atlas Tadla. Further south is the plain of Haouz in the region of Marrakech and that of Souss which forms a triangle between Ocean, High Atlas and Anti-Atlas. Other plains and fertile valleys of smaller sizes can be found especially in the north (Lukos, Nekkor, Trifa, Valley of the rivers Ouergha, Baht, Inaouen).
The desert, ergs, regs, djebels:
In the south of the country, near the Algerian border, the Erg Chebbi is the largest expanse of stone and sand in the interior of Morocco, although neither it nor Erg Chigaga are part of the Sahara Desert which is only found in Morocco in the southern Saharan provinces. Some sand dunes there can reach 200m in height.
The ergs are the great dune massifs. They occupy about 20% of the surface of the Sahara. They evolve according to the prevailing winds. The regs (or "desert pavements”), also called serirs in the eastern parts of the desert, are flat, stony and gravelly expanses and are the most common landscape in the Sahara. The large regs are particularly inhospitable. One can mention the reg of Tanezrouft (Algeria), the Libyan serir or the reg of Ténéré which each occupy hundreds of thousands of km². They can also occupy the tops of plateaus.
Dayas are small basins, usually with a clay bottom, in which runoff water can accumulate. Alternating flooding and wind erosion may explain their formation. They are sometimes of karstic origin on the plateaus. They are perennial vegetation zones. They are mainly found to the north of the Sahara.
Unlike the former, the sebkhas form temporary salt marshes. Water can come from runoff or temporary sources. The largest, the Chott el-Jerid, covers 5000 km². Some have been exploited as salt marshes since the 16th century, such as in Taoudeni in Mali.
Pile of eroded rocks in the Adrar des Ifoghas massif in Mali. The term djebel refers to all other landforms whether hills or larger mountain ranges. The most important massifs are the Tibesti (region of Borkou-Ennedi-Tibesti) formed by a volcanic massif emerging from a thick sedimentary sheet resting on a crystalline base. It reaches a height of 3415 m (Emi Koussi). The Hoggar is another imposing volcanic massif. It reaches a height of 2918 m. The Adrar des Ifhoras in the south of the Hoggar is a crystalline and metamorphic extension of the Hoggar which reaches 890m. The Ennedi is a sandstone massif south-east of the Tibesti and reaches 1282 m.
Hamadas are tabular rocky plateaus bounded by cliffs. They are of sedimentary origin, mostly limestone. When they are covered with sandstone, they are called tassilis. In general, the surface shows bare rock, smoothed by wind erosion.
Saharan oases, a natural or man-made environment, occupy only one thousandth of the surface of the Sahara. They are sometimes located on the beds of rivers that get lost in the desert or at the foot of massifs that produce springs or even directly above shallow or outcropping water tables.
This term refers to water bodies that are temporary or without visible flow. These may be ponds in river beds, or natural cisterns in the rock. They can be found in locations protected from too much sun exposure in the mountain ranges, in the Ennedi or the Adrar des Ifoghas in Mali.
The Wadis or Rivers:
Wadis are watercourses with temporary visible flow. Most of the time they are dry. Deep below, pockets of water can persist, and gueltas can be fed by a resurgence. Violent floods can sometimes occur, especially in the mountain ranges. The upstream part is formed by the gathering of runoff channels, the middle part forms a wide bed whose limits are sometimes difficult to recognize on the plain, and the downstream part may divide into several branches on an extensive alluvial cone. It is along the wadis that the sole dense tree formations in the Sahara can be observed. Morocco has many waterways (rivers and wadis) such as these:
The Bouregreg is one of Morocco's main rivers. It originates in the Moroccan Massif Central and flows towards the Atlantic coast through the coastal meseta. Its watershed is limited to the northeast by the Sebou basin, to the south by the Oum Errabia basin, to the southwest by the basins of the coastal rivers (Oued Cherrat, Oued N'Fifikh, and Oued Malleh) and extends westward to the Atlantic Ocean. Human existence on the river valley dates back to the 6th century BC, with the construction of Chellah by the Phoenicians followed by the Carthaginians. The site then served as a dwelling place for the Romans who settled in the area. They founded a port on the estuary of the river, which was taken over by the Saletins after the collapse of the former. This port served for a long period of time to support the economic dynamism of the cities of Rabat and Salé and was of great use to the corsairs of the two cities and for the struggles against the British and Portuguese navies who tried to occupy the port. Since the construction of the port of Casablanca in 1913, activity in the river port of Bouregreg has declined. The Almoravids erected a small fortress on the left bank of the river to counteract the threats of the Bouraghouata tribes. The Almohads rebuilt it and turned it into a real fortress, the Kasbah of the Oudayas. After the arrival of the Moriscos in the city of Rabat, they gave a new lease of life to the Kasbah. The Alaouite dynasty in turn undertook development work on the site between 1757 and 1789 and then between 1790 and 1792. The river also encouraged the development of commercial exchanges between the cities of Rabat and Salé and, starting with the establishment of the protectorate, a steam ferry was used to transport men and goods until 1936.
The Moulouya, 600 km long, flows into the Mediterranean Sea near the city of Saidia, in Ras El Ma (Nador province). The mouth extends over 2,700 hectares, 30 kilometres from the city of Berkane.
The Ouargha is a river in Morocco marking the southern limit of the Rif mountains. It meets the Sebou River, passes through the town of Jorf El Melha and Douar Zouayed and marks the southern limit of the Jebala Country.
The Oum Errabia:
Oum Errabia, or Oum Er R'bia, is the second largest river in Morocco, 550 km long with a flow of 117 m3/s. It has its source at an altitude of 1800m in the Middle Atlas, 40km from the city of Khenifra and 26 km from the city of M'rirt in the rural commune of Oum Errabia, and flows into the Atlantic Ocean in the commune of Azemmour.
The Ourika is a river that descends from the Moroccan High Atlas and flows in particular in the Ourika valley located 30km from Marrakech.
With a total length of 614km from its source, it has from upstream the waters of the Rif (Oued Leben, tributary of Oued Inaouen, itself a tributary of Sebou and Oued Ouargha) and those from the peaks (Oued Guigou, Oued Zlouh, Oued Mikkés) and Oued Inaouen which comes from the region of Taza where it borders the middle-atlas and pre-Rif regions.
The Souss is an Amazigh-speaking region of southwest Morocco whose capital is Agadir. Other important cities are Inezgane, Tiznit Tafraou, Taroudant, Taghazout, Aït Melloul, Biougra Aït Baha, Sidi Ifni, Bouizakarne. The Souss (n'Souss in tachelhit) is, geologically speaking, the alluvial basin of the Souss river (Assif n Souss), separated from the Sahara by the mountains of the Anti-Atlas.
The Tensift river crosses the Haouz plain, near Marrakech, and receives numerous tributaries, particularly on its left bank, including the Chichaoua river and the N'Fiss river. After a course of 250km, it flows into the Atlantic, 33km south of Safi, near Souira Kedima. Its very irregular flow is almost nil in summer.
The Draa (or Oued Drâa, or Dra) is the longest river in Morocco at 1100 kilometres. It is formed by the meeting of the Dades and Imini rivers in the High Atlas Mountains, at the level of the Tizi-N'Tichka Massif east of Jbel Toubkal and the M'Goun Massif, at altitudes ranging from 3,000 to 4,000m, until it flows into the Atlantic Ocean at Foum Draa north of the city of Tan-Tan and south of Guelmim. It is the longest river system in Morocco. The waters of the Draa are used to irrigate palm groves and various crops.
The Ziz (in Tamazight) is a river in southern Morocco and Algeria. It has its source in the eastern High Atlas Mountains and, after 282 km, flows into the Sahara Desert in Algeria. Although the flow of the Ziz is intermittent along its bed, its watercourse has long been used to facilitate human transit through this mountainous region. Cities along the Ziz include Errachidia, Erfoud and Sijilmassa. The town of Rissani, the former terminus of the trans-Saharan caravans, is a charming oasis in the valley of the Ziz.
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