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MʾZab is a deep, narrow oasis valley located within the Sahara, consisting of five walled towns, about 600 km south of Algiers, the capital of Algeria. The five towns, together known as the Pentapolis, are spread along the valley over a distance of about 10 km, and were established in the 11th century by Mozabite Berbers. The Mozabites were originally from Northwest Africa, a region historically known as the Maghreb, who had their capital at Tahert. When a devastating fire destroyed their home in 909, the Mozabites left Tahert and settled in M'Zab valley. There, they built five fortified towns — each a miniature citadel, encircled by walls, and dominated by a mosque, whose minaret functioned as a watchtower.

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El Ateuf, M’Zab Valley. Photo credit: Yann Arthus-Bertrand

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