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Val d'Aran

Val d'Aran (official name in Gascon) is a small valley (620.47 km2) in Spain. It is the comarca located on the northwestern part of the autonomous community of Catalonia, on the North face of the Pyrenees. It borders on the North with France, with Aragón on the west and with the Catalan comarques of Alta Ribagorça to the south and Pallars Sobirà to the east. The capital of the comarca is Vielha, with 3,692 inhabitants (1996). The entire population of the valley is about 7,130 (1996).

The region is characterized by an Atlantic climate, due to its peculiar orientation, which is different from other valleys in the zone. Inhabitants speak a dialect of Gascon called Aranès, strongly influenced by Spanish and Catalan, and with its own orthography. It has been regularly taught at school since 1984. The local Aranese speakers are also fluent in Spanish, Catalan and French. As with other minority languages in Europe, Aranese is probably experiencing a renaissance, as, up until comparatively recently, minority languages were on the decline in most areas, typically spoken only by the older members of a given society.

The area is divided in six administrative divisions, called terçons (meaning "thirds", as the divisions were formerly three in number). The current arrangement of the divisions dates from the 15th century.

The main income is from ski resorts in the winter, and from tourism in the summer. Other primary sectors of the economy include forest products, cattle raising and apiculture, all of which have become less and less important since the opening of ski resorts.

The valley used to be without direct communication with the south side of the mountains during winter, until the construction of a tunnel, opened in 1948. Spanish Republican guerrillas controlled the area from the end of WWII until the opening of the tunnel.

The name itself is a tautology, as it means Valley of the Valley (val in Gascon and aran from Basque haran ) - a interesting name for a very interesting place.