Middle Atlas Mountains

   This is a mountain chain located in north-central Morocco. It covers an estimated area of 28,000 square kilometers and runs for about 400 kilometers from north to south. The landscape of the Middle Atlas is a region consisting of different zones with great variations in altitude and in annual precipitation. It is composed of two major parts: high plateaus with an elevation ranging from 1,100 to 2,100 meters as well a conventional mountain chain reaching an elevation of 2,500 meters in some areas. Its topography dominates the surrounding lowlands and is characterized by a Mediterranean climate, with sufficient snow accumulation and rainfall for the practice of pastoral nomadism and rain-fed agriculture. Lying on the northern edge of the mountain range, the Sais plain forms one of Morocco's most favored rainfall areas, receiving an average annual precipitation of 600 to 700 millimeters. The area of the plain that joins the foothills of the Middle Atlas is called the dir, or slope. It is a well-watered area, forested and covered with green pastures throughout the hot and dry summer period. Early in the French Protectorate (1912-1956), the French discovered that the climate and soils of the Sais were suitable for grapevines, and it became a center of viniculture as well as the site of intensive land appropriation schemes.
   The area is home to several Tamazight-speaking Sanhaja tribes who make up several confederations known as Aït Idrassen, Aït Oumalou, and Aït Yaflman. The Aït Idrassen incorporate Aït Ihand, Aït `Ayyash, Aït Oufella, Aït Youssi, Aït Ndhir, Mjatt, Aït Ouallal, Imelwan, Aït Yemmour, and Aït Sadden. The Aït Oumalou (literally, "people of the shade") are composed of Ishqeren, Beni Mguild, Ishaq, Zayan, and Aït Sukhman. The Aït Yaflman (literally, "those who found peace") incorporate a number of tribes located at the southern end of the High Atlas around Midelt. They consist of the Aït Yahia, Aït Hdiddou, Aït Morghad, Aït Izdey, and Guerwan.

Historical Dictionary of the Berbers (Imazighen) . . 2014.

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