From its capital at Tunis, the Hafsid Dynasty made good its claim
to be the legitimate successor of the Almohads in Ifriqiya, while,
in the central Maghrib, the Zayanids founded a dynasty at Tlemcen.
Based on a Zenata tribe, the Bani Abd el Wad, which had been settled
in the region by Abd al Mumin, the Zayanids also emphasized their
links with the Almohads.
For more than 300 years, until the region came under Ottoman
suzerainty in the sixteenth century, the Zayanids kept a tenuous
hold in the central Maghrib. The regime, which depended on the
administrative skills of Andalusians, was plagued by frequent
rebellions but learned to survive as the vassal of the Merinids
or Hafsids or later as an ally of Spain.
Many coastal cities defied the ruling dynasties and asserted
their autonomy as municipal republics. They were governed by their
merchant oligarchies, by tribal chieftains from the surrounding
countryside, or by the privateers who operated out of their ports.
Nonetheless, Tlemcen prospered as a commercial center and was
called the "pearl of the Maghrib." Situated at the head of the
Imperial Road through the strategic Taza Gap to Marrakech, the
city controlled the caravan route to Sijilmasa, gateway for the
gold and slave trade with the western Sudan. Aragon came to control
commerce between Tlemcen's port, Oran, and Europe beginning about
1250. An outbreak of privateering out of Aragon, however, severely
disrupted this trade after about 1420.
Data as of December 1993