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The name Algeria is derived from the name of the country's oldest continuous settlement and modern capital, Algiers, a strategically located port city with access to both Europe and the Middle East.
Most of the population of the country is in the north. It borders Tunisia and Libya to the east; Niger, Mali, and Mauritania to the south; Morocco and Western Sahara to the west; and the Mediterranean Sea to the north.
Inland from the coast is the High Plateau region, with an elevation of 1,300 to 4,300 feet (396 to 1,311 meters).
This is mostly rocky and dry, dotted with vegetation on which cattle, sheep, and goats graze.
The star, crescent, and the color green are all symbolic of the Islamic religion. The Berbers were the original inhabitants of the region.
However, as internal conflicts began to sway the Muslim stronghold in North Africa in the fifteenth century, Europeans capitalized on this, and by 1510 Spain had seized Algiers, Oran, and other important port cities. In retaliation for Algerian debts and insolence toward the European nation, they blockaded several Algerian ports, and when this did not succeed, they invaded Algiers on 5 July 1830.At about the same time, the French began immigrating in large numbers to Algeria, in an attempt by the French government to replace Algerian culture with their own.By 1881 there were 300,000 Europeans (half of them French) in an area of 2.5 million Arabs.Beyond the plateau are the Saharan Atlas Mountains, which form the boundary of the Algerian Sahara desert.Despite efforts by the government to contain the desert by planting rows of pine trees, it continues to expand northward. The largest of these are the Kabyles, who live in the Kabylia Mountains east of Algiers.