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Mzab

MZAB

berber-speaking area in the arid pre-saharan hamada 360 miles (600 km) south of algiers.

The five original townsal-Ateuf, Bou Noura, Ghardaïa, Melika, and Beni Isguenwere founded in the eleventh century along the bed of the Wadi Mzab. Berriane and Guerrara were added outside the wadi in the seventeenth century. The people are mainly Kharidjite Ibadites, a sect of Islam dating from the schism at the time of the fourth caliph, Ali, that adheres to a doctrine of puritanical and egalitarian religious and social obligations. The Mzab is noted for its highly developed, essentially theocratic organization and the economic maintenance of strong communities through the extraordinary commitment and success of its people as tradesmen throughout Algeria.

thomas g. penchoen

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Mzab

Mzab (əmzäb´), stony, barren valley, Algeria, in the N Sahara. It was settled c.1000 by members of an austere Muslim sect, the Kharijites. The inhabitants, called Mozabites, dug wells, created date-palm oases, and built seven towns, united in a confederation. As traders, they made the area a caravan junction. France occupied the Mzab in 1853 and annexed it formally in 1882. It was transferred to Algeria in 1962. Water is pumped from more than 4,000 wells and 6 dams. Ghardaïa is the region's principal town.

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