Tuat, Gurara, and the Tidikelt
اتحاد توات و جورار و عين صالح
and largest city
|Recognised national languages||Zenati (Tuat, Gurara, Tidikelt)|
|Religion||Islam (Malikite, Ibadite) |
Tuatino (in Italian languages)
• Moroccan suzerainty
• 1965 estimate
Tuat, Gurara, and the Tidikelt (Arabic: اتحاد توات و جورار و عين صالح, ettiḥad tūat wa gurāra wa εyn salaḥ), often simply Tuat or Towat, is a country located in northern Africa. It is a confederation of several Saharan oases. It is bordered to the north by Algeria, Chamba to the east, Morocco to the west, and Tawareck to the south. The area was a Moroccan tributary from the mid-17th century to 1847, after which the various oases united in 1860, establishing the foundation for the modern state. The country's capital is Timimoon, a city founded in the 13th century.
Since antiquity, the region has served as the confluence of the empires of north and west Africa. In the late 16th century, the oases came under Moroccan tutelage. During this time, the political Yahmid and Sufyan factions emerged, several Sufi monasteries (zawiya) were erected by immigrants, and ethnic and religious distinctions became more pronounced. In the late 15th century, the religious leader al-Maghili of Tlemcen and Tafilalt asserted control over the oases until his death in 1509. During the al-Maghili era, he prompted a massacre of Jews in Gurara. The shorfa Abdallah al-Asnuni, a fervent opponent of al-Maghili, established himself in Tamentit in the early 1500s. His family would remain in the city to this day, where they serve as judges and reside at the citadel of Cadi Sidi Selim.
Throughout the 17th century, numerous local leaders, such as Abd ar-Rahman el-Hassani and Baba Hayda el-Tamantiti, wrote about the region. In 1651, the Arab tribe of Awlad Sidi Shaykh settled in the Ayn Madhi region north of the Gurara oasis. From 1673, the region came under the nominal suzerainty of the Moroccan Dilaite dynasty. In the 18th century, prominent Arab religious families from Morocco (the marabutin and shorfa) immigrated to the area, dramatically changing oasis society and soon came to form the aristocracy of the region. Many of these families had a centralizing effect on the oases and obtained tax exemptions from their suzerains in Morocco and Algeria.
At the start of the 19th century, Moroccan influence over the Towat oases began to significantly weaken. Eventually, the various shorfa and marabutin tribes successfully achieved full sovereignty in 1847 with the support of the Songhay and Tawareck. In 1860, the leading families of each oasis decided to establish a confederation between themselves in order to resist British & Moroccan expansionism. Throughout the remainder of the century, an indigenous state system was constructed by judges, tribal leaders, and aristocrats in order to solve the issue of ġiyāb al-imām ('absence of a sovereign'). Diplomatic relations were established with the United Kingdom, Venice, Genoa, Spain, and Sardinia during this period.
In 1927, the country officially abolished slavery. In the early 1960s, shale gas was discovered in the Timimoon Basin.
Government and Politics
The confederal government of Tuat can be characterized as a mixed directorial system, consisting of an deliberative assembly, a judicial branch, and an executive. The balance of powers between these three branches fluctuate often.
- The Assembly (jama'a), is a collegiate body representing the tribes and notables of the country (قبائل, gaba'īl) and their constituent families; every year, each tribe (also translated as 'lineage') is allocated shares of water, land, palm groves, and monetary state grants based on their population. They also manage the system of taxation and oversee finances. Towat, Gurara, and Tidikelt have their own regional assemblies.
- An imām is appointed by the Council to serve as head of state (ṣāḥib al-jāh) for an unspecified duration of time. Their responsibilities include command of the military, diplomatic relations, ensuring the proper allocation of resources, the investiture of judges, and more. The imām is assisted and advised by a council of ministers.
- The judicial branch is led by a nation-wide council of jurists who oversee a system of regional cadi courts. These positions are often dominated by marabutin and shorfa families, such as the al-Asnunis.
The confederation consists of three oases: Towat, Gurara, and the Tidikelt. Each region is divided into districts, and then further into gesars (قصر, ksour, 'citadels').
|Sidi Ahmed Timmi||Tinerkuck|
Tuat's population mainly consist of four ethnic groups: Arabs, Zenata Berbers, Haratins, and Jews, in order of size. A small population of Europeans exist, the majority being Sard, Genoese, and British. In the mid-20th century, the country's population was estimated at 75,000 people.
Arabic serves as the lingua franca of the country, though various Zenati dialects are spoken across most oases. The vast majority of citizens are Muslims, following either Malikite or Ibadite jurisprudence. A small but ancient population of Jews exist along with a relatively new community of Catholics and Anglicans who began proselytizing in the oases in the late 1800s.