The M'zab is a valley in the northern Sahara in the Ghardaïa wilaya "province" of Algeria, around 500 km south of Algiers. The region was annexed by the French in 1882, becoming part of their North African colonies. At its centre is Ghardaia, a cluster of five medieval walled settlements located on rocky outcrops, each centred round a fortress-like mosque, whose minaret also operates a watchtower. Ghardaia is one of the major oasis groups of the Sahara desert and life there was correspondingly strict, insular and traditional.
English pop group The Police used the tragic story of the three dancers from Ghardaia who wish to have tea in the desert as the basis of their song, Tea in the Sahara (Synchronicity, 1983). The song includes the phrase: "beneath the sheltering sky."
Listen on Spotify: Tea in the Sahara
Fort Charlet is one of many military forts built across the Sahara by the French and Italians throughout the last century and a half. Fort Charlet lies near Djanet, an oasis city in southeast Algeria. It was built on the orders of Captain Edouard Charlet in 1911.