The Tuareg were the first settlers in this region, which they called Tamenghest, but when Charles de Foucauld arrived here in 1905, Tamanrasset was just a dusty cluster of zeribas.
From the 1920s onwards, when the French colonial administration settled here because of the town’s strategic location, Tamanrasset’s growth accelerated. It became a préfecture in the 1950s and, after independence, the regional capital of the wilaya (province). Access routes were improved and more and more Algerians came to make their home here. In the ‘80s the explosion of tourism to the Algerian Sahara brought with it economic prosperity and urban planners.
The 1990s were lean years for Tamanrasset, as the town that had come to depend greatly on tourists saw its source of income dry up, due to the country’s bitter civil war. The slow improvements brought on by the end of the troubles were dashed again when a group of tourists was kidnapped in the desert regions near the town in 2003, but at the time of writing the safety situation in the region had greatly improved and visitors to the town were on the increase once more.