One of the epic battles of the French Foreign Legion at the turn of the century was the Battle of El-Moungar which took place along the ill-defined southern border of Morocco and Algeria on 02 September, 1903 (See slide 1). The battle is described in very good detail in several books on the French Foreign Legion including Our Friends Beneath the Sand. The location of El-Moungar was along the Oued Zousfana (River) basin which runs along the western edge of the Grand Erg Occidental (The Great Western Sand Sea) from Figuig to Taghit and on to Beni Abbes. It rests at the foot of the large black mountain range known as the Djebel Bechar. It is about 30KM north of the Kasba/Town of Taghit which lies to the south (see slide 2). The Zousfana basin was a veritable freeway in the desert which afforded wells and a high speed route to run supplies to all of the French bases strung along this this border into the northern Sahara.
I mention El-Moungar not because of the battle but because there appears to have been a military fort built there by the French sometime after the battle. A couple of weeks ago I was looking at some North African terrain maps I found at the Perry Casteneda On-line Map Library. These maps are very detailed but were printed in December 1956. Nevertheless, I was looking at the features along the Zousfana river on the Colomb Bechar map when I came across a reference to a Fort located at El-Moungar–labeled as such on the map (see slide 3). So naturally I went to Google Maps and Google Earth to see what I could find. Low and behold, after I matched the terrain features to the map, I found a very distinct mark that looks exactly like a fortress or blockhouse (or what is left of one) located at the exact location indicated by the map (see slide 4). It is strategically located at the foot of a pass that cuts through the Djebel Bechar to the west and also appears elevated enough to watch all that passes through the Zousfana river bed. It is an utterly desolate area but would probably have access to water because the water table under the Zousfana was not that deep and even ran above ground in some places. The map also notes that there is a “monument” further to the south that is closer to the actual location of the battle. This may be in reference to a monument and plaque placed in honor of the fallen Legionnaires and others killed in the battle. Anyways, just thought I would share something I think is pretty neat. Also, I will provide a battle analysis of the Battle of El-Moungar some other day, as well as any other pictures I might find now that I have good maps and have pinpointed key locations.