Exploring the Desert Region of Tuat
The Grand Erg Occidental is located to the south of the Tuat desert region and is filled with oases that were once vital for the caravans that used to travel across the Sahara desert. The string of oases covers a distance of a hundred and sixty kilometers, with the biggest town in the region being Adrar. This town was established in 1900 by the French and has an approximate population of forty-three thousand. The town also has fascinating attractions, such as the deserted forts that are located just outside Adrar. The entire Tuat region is completely groundwater dependable, as there is almost no rainfall in this area.
The region of Tuat is well-known for its date palms, as between the small oases there is an estimated seven to eight hundred thousand palm trees. These palms are irrigated by what is called foggaras systems. For trans-Saharan trade, the route through Tuat was vital, with Reggane being one thousand one hundred and fifty kilometers away from Gao, which is the same distance to Timbuktu. Traveling from Sudan, the caravans would move towards the towns of Tlemcen and Sijilmasa. It seems that the region was home to a great number of Jewish residents, as a tombstone dating to 1329 and inscribed in Hebrew was located near Bouda. The first time the Tuat region was documented was in 1353 by Ibn Battuta during his visit to Bouda, as he had to travel across the Sahara with a large caravan. He remained in Bouda for a few days, documenting the lives of the locals, before moving on to Sijilmasa. In 1375, the villages of Gao, Sijilmasa, Bouda and Timbuktu were added to the Catalan Atlas of Abraham Cresques.
They Jewish population in Tuat was driven out by Muhammad al-Maghili who encouraged the Muslims living in Tamentit to tear down their synagogue in 1490. Sultan Ahmad al-Mansur took control of the Tuat region and the oases of Gourara sometime between 1583 and 1588, ensuring that the region was dependant on Morocco for some time. Today, there are approximately fifty-six thousand Tuat Berbers scattered across the region, which is an estimated forty-eight thousand square kilometers in size, with In-Salah being the capital city. It is a fascinating region to explore as most of the traditional customs have survived in this area that is steeped in history and desert beauty.