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:: MOROCCO AND WESTERN SAHARA GEOGRAPHY ::

Morocco and Western Sahara map.

Total area (Morocco): +/- 446500 km2.
Total area (Western Sahara): +/- 264300 km2.
Saharan area (Morocco): +/- 250000 km2 (56%).
Saharan area (Western Sahara): +/- 264300 km2 (100%).
Lowest point: -65 meters (Sebkha Tah, near Cape Juby).
Highest point: 4165 meters (Jebel Toubkal).

Morocco is a country of the Maghreb.

Morocco is the most mountainous of the saharan countries, though most of its mountains do not belong to the desert. Jebel Toubkal (4165 meters), located on the High Atlas, is the highest elevation in northern Africa. The High Atlas possesses a mediterranean climate, while the Lesser Atlas belongs to the saharan climate. Around a half part of Morocco is desertic, mostly steppe, while only very small and isolated dune fields exist, located next to the algerian border. South-east from the Lesser Atlas, Wadi Draa serves along some distance as border between Morocco and Algeria.

Western Sahara, the southern region administered by Morocco, is completely desertic and its landscape is mainly flat and monotonous, lacking any remarkable geographical feature. Phosphates, iron and oil are some resources present in this barren territory, but the scarcity of water difficults its extraction.


Morocco only possesses some small ergs of reddish sands located along the border with Algeria. The most compact of these is Erg Chebbi, a small and isolated mass of sand that occupies an area of barely 110 km2, located 90 km south-south-east of Ar-Rachidya.

Beyond a cracked ground emerge the dunes of Erg Chebbi. The sunset in Erg Chebbi.

Between the High Atlas and the Sahara, the valleys of the oueds are dotted with fortified villages called ksour (ksar in singular), surrounded with palms, gardens and carefully irrigated crops. In the image, valley of the oued Ziz, near Erfoud.

Landscape in the valley of the Ziz.

The summits of the Lesser Atlas range, also called Anti-Atlas, reach average heights of 1500 meters, with a few peaks surpassing 1800 meters. One peak, Jebel Siroua, of volcanic origin, reaches 3304 meters and links this range to the High Atlas.

The annual rainfall in the Lesser Atlas is typically below 200 mm, while the climatic conditions on the northern and western slopes are locally wetter and more favorable to agriculture. Climatically, these mountains are separated from any mediterranean influence by the High Atlas range located to the north, and therefore they belong to the saharan climate zone. In the less dry areas to the west and the north, much of the land is covered with flora species such as thyme, rosemary and other low-water-demanding plants, such as argan. The quilt-like cover is endangered by grazing, and in the south, where transition to the desert is gradual, only thorn shrubs remain.

The landscape is marked by picturesque kasbahs (small castles) in many places in the region. In former times, the kasbahs were important as a place of shelter and a supply depot for kinsmen. Close to these settlements, terraced fields with retaining walls armed with stone cover the landscape. However, increasingly houses are vacated and fields are left uncultivated. With the continued migration from the land, the irrigation systems necessary for agriculture are also decaying.

The landscape of the Lesser Atlas. The landscape of the Lesser Atlas.

In the periods of rise, the oued Draa is a true river that irrigates oases and palm groves between the Atlas ranges and the Atlantic Ocean, but during the dry seasons, its waters hardly can cross the ardent sands of the desert.

The oued Draa running water during the wet season.

Western Sahara terrain is low, reaching a maximum elevation of about 600 meters, and it is one of the most inhospitable places on the world, an entirely hot, dry, sandy and rocky territory with sparse vegetation, as seen on the images below. There are no significant oases in the Western Sahara territory, just some rocky cisterns or gueltas where rainfall gathers. Seguia el-Hamra is the only important river in the country, but it runs water only during the wet season. It runs from east to west across the northern part of the country, having its source in the Zemmour massif, in the area of Smara. Most of the significant vegetation on the country, composed by shrubs and occasional acacia trees, grows in the Seguia el-Hamra and its tributaries.

The landscape in a track near to Smara. The landscape in the road between Smara and El Aaiun.

The landscape in the southern region, north of Tichla.

Morocco And Western Sahara Ethnography



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