From The Hippo’s Ears: Algeria

Facts you may not have know about Algeria:

Algeria, officially the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, is a country in the Maghreb region of North and West Africa. The capital and most populous city is Algiers, located in the far north of the country on the Mediterranean coast.

Algeria has a population of approximately 42 million, is a Unitary, semi-presidential people’s republic, and gained independence from the France in 1962.

1.  When you first meet someone, how do you greet them?

Greeting in Algeria can be lengthy. In addition to shaking hands, it is common to ask someone about their family and work. Family and friends may exchange kisses on the cheek. Some resident in Algeria who are devout may not be comfortable shaking hands.

2. What languages are spoken in the country?

Arabic and Berber are the two official languages of Algeria. French is used for administration, business, and education, and the lingua franca is Algerian Arabic (Darja). Colloquial Darja is heavily infused with borrowings from French and Berber.

3. Do you use a twelve hour clock, or a twenty-four hour clock?

We use a 24-hour system.

4. What side of the road do people drive on? What do we need to know about driving in the country?

We drive on the right side of road. The Algerian road network is the densest in Africa, and is 85% paved.

5. How important is punctuality?

Punctuality is not of the utmost importance and you should be prepared to wait at meetings.

6. Which types of music are popular? Who are some of the most popular musicians?

Music in Algeria offers a rich diversity of genre: popular music (Chaabi), various genres of Andalusian classical music such as Sana’a, Gharnati music, Ma’luf, as well as classical Arabic, Bedouin and Berber music. Raï is a creative outlet to express love and romance. This music is a mix between Western music and Bedouin music. Ma’luf is the Andalusian classical music music of Constantine and is also well known in Tunisia and Libya.

For a taste of Zimbabwean music, listen to Khaled’s Didi, and Idir’s Porquoi Cette Pluie.

Rock towers in Tamanrasset, in the Algerian Sahara.

7. Are there any Traditional Dances?

Ouled Nail dances are traditional in Algeria. They are a tribal confederation living in the Ouled Naïl Range, Algeria. The Ouled Naïl tribe originated a style of music, sometimes known as Bou Saâda music after the town near their homeland. In belly dancing, the term refers to a style of dance originated by the Ouled Naïl, noted for their way of dancing.

Watch an example of Ouled Nail dance here.

8.  What traditional Festivals are celebrated in the country?

Timgad Festival
The International Music Festival of Timgad takes place every July and lasts for a week with world-famous musicians. You will hear all kinds of genres, from rock to rai.

European Cultural Festival
Concerts, art and photography exhibitions, theater, dance performances and movie screenings take place every year in a feast of multiculturalism and diversification. This two-week event attracts artists from various countries, while activities are held all over the country from Alger to Constantine and from Tlemcen to Oran.

Dimajazzis a festival of jazz music held every year in Constantine in Algeria.

Festival of du Rai d’Oran
Rai d’Oran is an yearly event held every August aiming to celebrate the popular Algerian genre of rai music. This music genre that appeared in the 30s is a type of folk music that was born in the cities, Oran and Aïn Témouchent, from Bedouin shepherds, mixed with Spanish, French and Arabic sounds.

Sahara International Film Festival
Each summer for the past 13 years, in the heart of the burning desert of Algeria, the Sahara International Film Festival has taken place.

9. What are the seasons like?

Northern Algeria is in the temperate zone and enjoys a mild, Mediterranean climate. This area, the most inhabited in Algeria, is commonly referred to as the Tell. In the Tell, temperatures in summer average between 21 and 42 °C and in winter drop to 10 to 12 °C. Winters are not cold, but the humidity is high and houses are seldom adequately heated. In eastern Algeria, the average temperatures are somewhat lower, and on the steppes of the High Plateaus winter temperatures hover only a few degrees above freezing. Rainfall is fairly abundant along the coastal part of the Tell, ranging from 400 to 670 mm annually, the amount of precipitation increasing from west to east.

10. What are some interesting facts about the President?

President Abdelaziz Bouteflika has been the fifth President of Algeria since 1999. He was Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1963 to 1979. As President, he presided over the end of the Algerian Civil War in 2002, and he ended emergency rule in February 2011 amidst regional unrest. He is former president of the United Nations General Assembly in 1974. The President was born in Oujda, Morocco, and moved to Algeria after joining the Algerian Liberation Army (ALN). In November 2012, he surpassed Houari Boumédiène as the longest-serving head of state of Algeria.

11. What are the country’s major industries?

Oil and gas exports form a large majority of total exports in Algeria. Main industries include agriculture, construction, mining, food processing, pharmaceutical, and government. Major export partners include the United States, Spain, and Italy.

12. How do people spend their free time?

Locals spend their free time socializing with friends and family – family is a very important part of Algerian culture. The Botanical Garden of Algiers (Jardin d’Essai du Hamma) is a popular scenic place to visit.

View of Algiers, Algeria.

13. What is a popular local drink?

Popular drinks include mint tea (drunk frequently throughout North Africa and the Middle East); strong, sweet coffee (sometimes called Turkish coffee); and Medea, Mansourah, and Mascara red wines.

14. What is a popular local dish?

Algerian cuisine is typically a mix of Berber, Arabic, Andalusian, and Mediterranean cuisines. Most of the Algerian dishes are centered around bread, lamb, beef or poultry, olive oil, fresh vegetables and fresh herbs. Traditionally, no Algerian meal is complete without bread. Traditional bread is almost always made with semolina, and French bread is also common. Mediterranean seafood and fish are also eaten frequently. Seasonal fruits are typically served at the end of meals.

15. What do you pay, on average, for the following? (1 USD = approx. ZAR 118)

In place of the Zimbabwean dollar, which was demonetized in 2015, currencies including the South African rand, Botswana pula, pound sterling, Indian rupee, euro, Japanese yen, Australian dollar, Chinese yuan, and the United States dollar are now regularly used.

3 Course meal: DZD 750
Domestic beer (500ml): DZD 150
Cup of coffee: DZD 78
Coca cola (330ml): DZD 62
Milk (1l): DZD 55
Loaf of white bread: DZD 17
Apples (1 kg): DZD 250
Water (1.5l): DZD 31

16. Any general safety tips?

Algeria has improved in safety immensely in recent years and for much of the country there are no significant safety issues. However, the lack of foreign visitors means that you will stand out in a crowd and so it still pays to exercise caution. Check the current local advisories when travelling to the northwest Kabylie region, a short way east of Algiers. Many governments warn again anything outside of essential travel to this region. It’s illegal to visit the Saharan regions without an officially accredited guide. Carry your passport/ID at all times, and try to avoid driving after dark. Outside major towns, small protests or strikes can affect transport. Observe instructions given by the local security authorities.

17. In conclusion, famous (and sometimes infamous) people from the country include:

  • Taoufik Makhloufi, an Algerian track and field athlete who specializes in middle-distance running. He became the 1500 meters Olympic champion at the 2012 Summer Olympics. In 2016, Makhloufi took the silver medal in the 800 m and 1500 m at the Summer Olympics in Rio, Brazil.
  • Assia Djebar, an Algerian novelist, translator and filmmaker. Most of her works deal with obstacles faced by women, and she is noted for her feminist stance.
  • Souad Massi, an Algerian Berber singer, songwriter and guitarist.
  • Merzak Allouache, an Algerian film director and screenwriter. He has directed 18 films since 1976.


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Sources: [1], [2], [3], [4]. Image sources:  [1], [2], [3].