Mountain system of northwest Africa, stretching 2,400 km/1,500 mi from the Atlantic coast of Morocco to the Gulf of Gabes, Tunisia, and lying between the Mediterranean on the north and the Sahara on the south. The highest peak is Mount Toubkal 4,165 m/13,665 ft.
Geologically, the Atlas Mountains compare with the Alps in age, but their structure is much less complex. They are recognized as the continuation of the great Tertiary folded mountain systems of Europe (such as the Alps and Pyrenees).
The Atlas Mountains are nonvolcanic, and only very few summits are perpetually covered with snow. The valleys are very fertile, and the lower slopes, especially the northern slopes of the High Atlas, are covered with dense forests of cedar, pine, oak, and cork oak. The geological formation of the mountains is crystalline rocks and schist, with flanking limestone.There are many unexploited mineral reserves, including gold, silver, lead, zinc, manganese, phosphates, and petroleum. The mountains stretch northeast from Cape Nun in Morocco to Cape Bon in Tunisia. For the most part there is no continuous chain, but an irregular mass of mountainous land, including vast plateaux and highlands. They may be roughly divided into two parts: the Moroccan Atlas, and the Tunisian and Algerian Atlas, both containing numerous minor divisions.
There are four main chains: (a) the High Atlas (or Haut Atlas), containing Mount Toubkal (4,165 m/13,665 ft), Mount M'Goun (4,071 m/13,356 ft), and Mount Ayachi (3,737 m/12,260 ft); (b) the Middle Atlas, to the north of the High Atlas; (c) the Anti-Atlas, connecting with the High Atlas near the peak of Mount Ayashin (3,660 m/12,000 ft); (d) the Jebel Bane, to the south of the Anti-Atlas.
Tunisian and Algerian Atlas
There are two main ranges: (a) the Great Atlas, containing the peak of Sheliya (2,365 m/7,760 ft); and (b) the Little Atlas, containing the peak of Leila Khedija, the two being separated by a plateau. Jebel Musa, a western promontory of the Little Atlas, together with the Rock of Gibraltar which lies opposite to it across the Straits, were long known as the Pillars of Hercules, a traditional western limit of the ancient world.
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