Topography of Algeria

Topography of Algeria Last updated on Monday 19th April 2010

The country is characterized by four distinct parallel geographical regions running east to west:

The Tell region is the northern band of terrain extending along the country's northern coastal area, between 80 and 190km (50-120 miles) wide. This region is a narrow discontinuous coastal strip in which the majority of the country's population lives.

The Tell is formed of hills and fertile valleys which contain the majority of Algeria's arable land. The main coastal cities of Algiers, Oran and Annaba are located on the plains of the Tell. The southern perimeter of this region is bounded by the Tell Atlas mountain range which extends from the Moroccan frontier of Cap Carbon to the east near Bijaya. The Bijaya plain is another highly productive agricultural area. The highest peak of the Tell Atlas range is Jebel Warsenis with an elevation of 1,985m. Algeria's main river, Chelif, flows from the Tell Atlas for 725km (450mi) to the Mediterranean Sea.

The second geographical region is known as the ::I, a tableland interspersed with large shallow basins which collect water during the rainy season, becoming dry lake beds or salt flats called chotts, or shotts, in the hot season. This region extends on a southwest to northeast axis from east of shott ash-Shargui to shott al-Hodna, terminating east of ::I. The High Plateau is mostly a barren, arid wasteland, although its western area is known for its abundance of esparto grass, a needlegrass which grows in the deserts of North Africa and which is an age-old material used for making ropes, sandals, baskets and other traditional items.

The third geographical region is known as the Saharan Atlas which is formed of three mountain chains: the Jibal Amor in the southwest; the Jibal Awlad Nail in the centre and the Monts du Zab in the northeast. The Saharan Atlas receives more rain than the High Plateau with the result that the region contains large areas of pastureland.

The fourth and largest region of Algeria is the Sahara Desert, which covers 90% of the country's total land area. This is mostly a desolate flatland covered with gravel, but there are wide expanses of sand desert composed of two 'uruq, or dune chains, called the Great Western 'Irq and the Great Eastern 'Irq. At the Sahara's geographical centre lies the ::I, a volcanic highland 800km wide and 3,000m in elevation. Jebel Tahat, located in the ::I, is the highest peak in Algeria at 3,003m (9,852ft). There are also scattered oasis settlements throughout the Sahara where dates are cultivated and small-scale farming is carried out.

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