Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Forgotten Lands: Al Farif

Al Farif

Capital: Mouj
Population: 4,688,000 (2001 estimate)
Area: 983,000 km2
Independence: 1943

Economy: Mediterranean agricultural products, especially citrus and dates, dominate Al Farif’s small export sector. The bulk of the population practices subsistence agriculture or animal husbandry.
Per Capita Income: US$15,700
Languages: Arabic (official), Italian, Berber languages
Literacy Rate: 78%

Almost the entire population of Al Farif lives in the thin strip of fertile land between the Karadj Highlands and the Mediterranean Sea. Hot winds blowing off the Mediterranean, a constant of life in the region, cool as they rise over the Karadj and expel their moisture in daily thunderstorms that are as regular and predictable as they are violent. “Destiny is as reckless as the wind,” goes a local proverb, and the profound fatalism implicit in this saying is not lost anyone who has witnessed an afternoon storm in the Karadj foothills.

Most of Al Farif’s towns and villages are clustered along the many small rivers that wend north from the highlands to the sea. Thus spread among dozens of river valleys and harbors, the population lacks any single dominant core. Mouj, the capital, is “not the commanding city one expects at the heart of a modern nation-state, but merely one modest town among many” (Peacock, Urban Structure in North Africa). The capital building itself, however, is remarkable for its enormous dome and its construction from local sandstone of fiery orange.

The vast areas of desert land to the south of the Karadj are wandered only by a handful of nomadic herders, with their goats and camels.

Although it had no prior history of political unity, the area that is now Al Farif remained independent during the colonial period out of sheer geopolitical happenstance. The British did not wish to see the region added to France’s Algerian possessions, and the French in turn did not relish the prospect of yet another British base in the Mediterranean. Neither country felt that the ire of its neighbor was a price worth paying for Al Farif. After only a brief occupation by Mussolini’s Italy (1936-1942), the country was led onto the modern stage by President Sheikh Abdul Mohamed. At 96, he remained in 2009 the world’s longest serving head of state.

Flag: Despite the brevity of its colonial occupation, Italy’s impact on Al Farif was considerable. Indeed, Italian can be heard spoken to this day in certain coffeehouses in Mouj. The pattern of three vertical bars on the national flag is probably another reflection of postwar Italian influence. The green of the left and right bars represents Islam. The blue of the center bar is variously said to represent the Mediterranean Sea, the many rivers on which the agriculture of Al Farif depends, or the bright Saharan sky.

National Anthem: “Onward, Al Farif, Onward.”


Kritkrat said...

Forgotten, or never heard of? I'm going with the latter...

Michael5000 said...

Blame your geography teacher.

Dr. Kenneth Noisewater said...

I like that the capital is Mouj because it's almost Mooj, the Asian Indian guy from 40-Year-Old Virgin who steals every scene he's in.