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Touat

(778 words)

Author(s): Jacob Oliel
Touat (Berb./Ar. Tuwāt) is a vast oasis region in southwestern Algeria. It is dotted by a dozen agglomerations of fortified hamlets (Ar. qṣūr), 248 of which are still inhabited. Although the original residents were Zenata Berbers, most of the present population is Arabic-speaking. Medieval Arab historians such as Ibn Khaldūn make occasional mention of the Touat, but seem to know very little about it. The fourteenth-century Moroccan traveler Ibn Baṭṭūṭa passed through in 1353, but gives few details. According to traditions mentioned by later Arab historians, Jew…

Béchar (Colomb-Béchar)

(527 words)

Author(s): Jacob Oliel
Colomb-Béchar(today simply Béchar, Ar. Bashshār) is located 725 km south of Oran near the Moroccan border. It served as the state-capital of the French department Saoura, created by a decree of August 7,  1957.  It is an important road and railroad node that was also the gate to the Sahara.  The town was created from a conglomeration of villages along the banks of the Oued Bechar (Wādī Bashshār), when the French under General Hubert Lyautey occupied it in November 1903.   A few Jews had been living in the ksar of Béchar where they worked asjewelers, blacksmiths, tailors, shoemakers, pe…

Tamentit

(820 words)

Author(s): Jacob Oliel
Tamentit (Berb. Tamanṭīṭ) is a modest village of 260 inhabitants in southwestern Algeria located 11 kilometers (7 miles) from Adrar. An agglomeration of fortified hamlets (Ar. qṣūr), it lies within the vast Touat oasis. The Berber toponym, from aman (water) and tit (source), attests the importance of water in the establishment of the town. According to traditions mentioned by Arab historians, it was once the capital of a Jewish kingdom. Jews are said to have arrived there at the beginning of the common era. In 118, the Roman emperor Trajan persecuted and expelled the Jews of Cyrenai…