Algeria is the largest country in Africa and has a beautiful setting on the coast of the Mediterranean ocean with its pleasant year round climate. With an ancient history and fairly recent independence after years of war, there is much to interest visitors here. With these 53 interesting facts about Algeria, let’s uncover more about its culture, economy, history, people and more…
Facts about Algerian: Culture, Traditions and Customs
Fact 1. Algeria is commonly called the country of cherries and dates. This refers to the various types of weather found here; a mild climate in the north and a dry, hot one in the Saharan south. Algerian dates are known to be some of the best on earth. Visitors are traditionally greeted by being offered dates and milk.
Fact 2. The official name of Algeria is the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria and its National Holiday is also known as Revolution Day, honoring the day the final bid for independence began on the first of November decades ago.
Fact 3. Algeria’s official language is Arabic. The people speak Arabic, Berber (called Tamazight and Amazigh) or French. Algerian Arabic (called darja) is spoken by well over half the population as well. Although English is not commonly spoken, it is taught in Algerian schools.
Fact 4. Algeria’s official religion is Islam and it is illegal to proselytize to the people about any other religion. The legal system is based on the French court system and Sharia law.
Fact 5. Even though Western clothing is common, mostly in urban areas, traditional Muslim clothing is also common. In areas under Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) control, people wear some form of traditional garb, particularly the women. It is considered proper to be dressed conservatively in public and modest clothing is worn by all Algerians. The militant Islamists demand that women be veiled and they are more than willing to enforce their orders.
Fact 6. The national animal of Algeria is the Fennec fox and their national football team (soccer) is named after the animal: “Les Fennecs”. Football (soccer) is Algeria’s national sport. The fennec is a small desert fox with disproportionately large ears.
Fact 7. Hospitality is important among the Algerian people. It is a blend of Arabic customs with French Gallic traditions. Everyone is cordial to strangers and friends alike. In a small gathering, it is polite to greet each person individually, beginning with the elders. Handshakes are common but using your fingers to point at objects or people is considered rude. Never use the left hand separately: when handing someone something, do it with the right hand or both hands.
Fact 8. In this male dominant society, sex roles are clearly defined. (Nevertheless, some women do fill important positions in public and private professions.) Fathers handle family finances while mothers take care of the children and the home. Men often meet at coffeehouses to play games like chess, checkers and dominoes. The women tend to socialize in each others’ homes.
Fact 9. Close friends and relatives visit each other frequently and don’t have to have an invitation or let each other know first. Others are expected to make advance plans. When visiting someone socially, it is customary to bring the host a small gift.
Fact 10. Speech in conversations that is too direct and frank is considered impolite. Key attributes of the Algerian national character are courtesy and formality.
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Economy and People
Fact 11. All but two percent of Algeria’s exports are fossil fuels. Petroleum and natural gas make up 98 percent of the country’s exports. The country’s crude oil reserves are the 17th largest in the world. Algeria is also Africa’s largest oat market.
Fact 12. Algebra owes no money to other countries; it has no external debt. Unfortunately, one in every four of its citizens lives on less than a dollar a day. Many Algerians are poor. This situation is made worse by the fact that Algeria has North Africa’s highest cost of living. The national currency is the Algerian Dinar.
Fact 13. Only about three percent of the country’s land is cultivated, far too little for feeding their population self-sufficiently. As a result, malnutrition is one of the nation’s principal health problems. Five percent of Algeria’s population is undernourished, according to the World Bank.
Fact 14. Free national health care was introduced by the government in 1974 and helps pay for those who are sick and injured. Nearly all of the people living in urban areas have access to adequate sanitation. In rural areas 80 percent of the population does.
Fact 15. Algeria’s literacy rate is 70 percent; more men can read than women. Women have traditionally been discouraged from attending school to stay home with their mothers. French is the instructional language at school. English is taught as well.
Fact 16. Only 12 percent of Algeria’s land area is inhabited. The northern coastal area is home to 90 percent of the population while the remaining nomadic or partly nomadic population lives in oases in the Sahara desert. Twenty eight percent of Algerians are under 15 years old.
Fact 17. People gather for helping in the harvest and then feasting in a celebration known as “La Touiza”. Huge amounts of the national dish of couscous are served after the hard work of harvest.
Fact 18. Algerian born Nobel Prize winners are Albert Camus and Claude Cohen-Tannoudj (Physics, 1997). Camus (Literature, 1957) was the goal keeper for the football (soccer) team while at the University of Algiers. His family was French and lived in Algeria during the colonial years.
Fact 19. Algeria has competed at every summer Olympics since 1964, winning five gold medals and 17 medals overall. They won two silver medals in the 2016 games in Brazil.
Fact 20. Women in Algeria, unlike those in other Islamic nations, make up 60 percent of the student population. They also have considerable prominence in society as 70 percent of Algeria’s lawyers and 60 percent of its judges are women. Algerian women make a larger contribution to household income than their male counterparts.
Geography, Climate and Tourism
Fact 21. The largest country by area in all of Africa is Algeria. It is the eleventh largest in the world.
Fact 22. Only 12 percent of its land is inhabited. Over 90 percent of the country is covered by the Sahara desert.
Fact 23. The capital city of Algeria is Algiers, which is also the country’s largest city.
Fact 24. Algeria is in North Africa and is located on the Mediterranean Ocean with Morocco to the west and Tunisia to the east.
Fact 25. Algeria recorded its record high temperature in August of 2011. The thermometer topped off at 123.8°F (51°C). Its coastal region, though, has a typical Mediterranean climate that is pleasant all year round. Rainfall is abundant along the coast and scarce in the desert. The mountains receive a lot of frost and some snow.
Fact 26. Mount Tahat is Algeria’s highest mountain and is 3,003 meters (1.9 miles) high. Its longest river is the Chelif. It flows from near the city of Aflou through the Tell Atlas to empty into the Mediterranean and is 700 kilometers (435 miles) long.
Fact 27. Algeria’s Tassili National Park is also called “Plateau of the Rivers”. It is a large open sky museum where there are many prehistoric rock art drawings and other archaeological sites from the Neolithic era. Some drawings are called the ‘Aliens on the rocks’.
Fact 28. Algeria’s mountainous and fertile northern regions have cork and olive trees. There are also evergreen forests that are home to wild boars and jackals. Various palm, agave and fig trees also grow in the warmer climates. Grapes are native to the coastal plain.
Fact 29. Central Algeria has the region of High Plateaus with shallow or dry lakes and salt marshes. The further south you travel, the more arid the land and climate becomes. Vegetation here is sparse. Rabbits, snakes, scorpions and camels live in the desert climate.
Fact 30. There are seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Algeria. Some are ruins of cities built by the indigenous people and some are Roman ruins.
Fact 31. Al Qal’a of Beni Hammad is ruins of an ancient fortified Muslim city that give us an authentic picture of the style of life there. The Kasbah of Algiers (also spelled Casbah) is an historic citadel Napoleon III visited in 1860.
Fact 32. Timgad is a Roman-Berber ruin in the Aurés Mountains. Djémála features some of the best preserved Berbero-Roman ruins in North Africa. They demonstrate a unique adaptation of Roman architecture to a mountainous environment.
Fact 33. The M’Zab Valley contains five “walled villages” or ksours (qsurs) known as the Pentapolis. Tipasa is a ruined city on the central coast of the Mediterranean that the emperor Claudius turned into a military colony.
Facts about history of Algeria
Fact 34. During Algeria’s history the country has been ruled by Romans, Germanic tribes, Byzantines, the Spanish, Turks and the French. In its earliest time the country was known as Numidia.
Fact 35. There are many interesting architectural sites of significant historical interest in Algeria and seven of them have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Fact 36. The 8th and 11th centuries AD saw the arrival in Algeria of Islam and with it the Arabic language. The introduction of both had a significant impact on all the Maghreb (North African) people with changes in economic and social relationships and the establishment of links with a rich and well-established culture.
Fact 37. Algeria’s political history is interesting and full of conflict. More than a million Europeans were captured and then sold as slaves in North Africa. France conquered Algeria in 1830 and the practice stopped. France ruled Algeria until 1962.
Fact 38. The modern borders of Algeria were established by the French during their colonization. Though France controlled the entire country, the traditional Muslim rural communities remained separated from the French’s economic infrastructure and the European community in their country.
Fact 39. The French in Algeria were known as Colons (colonists) or pieds noirs (black feet) and they controlled both the government and the majority of the country’s wealth. Political unrest in the 1930s made the Colons burden the people with more restrictive laws.
Fact 40. The Algerians Muslims did fight with the French in World War I and World War II but from 1954 to 1962 Algeria was engaged in a fight with France for their independence that was bloody and long. It resulted in more than a million Algerian deaths. The conflict involved many atrocities, including guerilla warfare, terrorism and counter-terrorism, and torture.
Fact 41. Algeria’s modern flag was designed to symbolize very specific points. The colors are green, red and white. The green, believed to be the Prophet Muhammad’s (P.B.U.H) favorite color, represents Islam and paradise (nature). Red symbolizes the deaths and sacrifice of all those who fought for Algeria’s independence, and for liberty. White symbolizes purity and peace. To be acceptable for the flag, the exact wavelength that each color must absorb is specified officially, which is highly unusual for an African country’s flag.
Fact 42. The current Algerian flag was adopted on 3 July 1962.
Fact 43. Algeria mediated negotiations between Iran and the U.S. in 1980 to liberate the Americas hostages Iran kidnapped from the American embassy. This led to the signing of the Algiers Accords and the prisoners’ release.
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Fact 44. Algerian cuisine has been influenced by the ancient cultures and various countries that have visited and/or ruled it. The Berbers brought wheat cultivation and were the first to create couscous which is the country’s national dish. The Romans brought barley and other grains. Vegetables such as potatoes, tomatoes, chilies and zucchini came from the New World.
Fact 45. Muslim Arabs introduced exotic spices like cloves, saffron, ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg from Indonesia‘s Spice Islands. Olives and olive oil as well as peaches, plums, and oranges came with the Spanish. Tea came from European traders.
Fact 46. When the French arrived, they forced the Algerians to surrender their land and crops to them. In return, the French introduced their culture and cuisine to the Algerians, including sidewalk cafes, as well as their crusty long loaves of bread, eaten daily in the country even now.
Fact 47. Today traditional Algerian cuisine is a colorful combination of Turkish, Berber, Arab and French influences and tastes. Flavors may be packed with seasonings or extremely mild. Essential pantry supplies include mint, cinnamon, parsley, cumin, garlic, coriander, ginger, saffron, onion, parsley, garlic and onion.
Fact 48. Algeria produces its own citrus fruit, grapes, cherries, figs, wheat and famous dates, which some regard as the best in the world. They just can’t produce enough for all their people, so 45 percent of their food must be imported.
Fact 49. There are three key Algerian dishes (one is a range of drinks, actually). One is couscous, pasta–like dish made from semolina wheat. It is served as a bed form chicken, meat, lamb and vegetables. It can even be a dessert with a topping of cinnamon of other toppings.
Fact 50. Another is Mechoui. This is a whole roasted lamb cooked on an outdoor spit, prepared for large group gatherings. Seasoned with herb butter, the skin turns crispy while the meat inside is cooked tender and juicy. It is usually served with vegetables and dried fruits as well as bread.
Fact 51. Etzai, the mint tea popular all over North Africa, is the favorite gift. Alcohol is forbidden for Muslims. Coffee with cardamom is another drink. Children like to drink apricot nectar. Fruit or nut-flavored milk drinks called Sharbats are also popular.
Fact 52. Meals are eaten at a leisurely pace and are sociable occasion. Food like couscous is traditionally eaten with the thumb, forefinger and middle finger of the right hand. Never use more than three fingers or you are displaying greed. Never eat with the left hand, which is considered unclean. Leaving a little on your plate is considered a sign that your host is able to amply provide for your needs.
Fact 53. The atmosphere at the table in a middle class family may be a bit more elegant. A servant or young family member may offer each guest a bowl of perfumed water for washing their hands before dining.
Between the hospitality of the Algerians, the excellent cuisine, and the vast landscapes, Algeria is an exciting country to visit.
Algeria facts – country at a glance
|Total area||2,381,741 sq km|
|Population||39,542,166 (July 2015 est.)|
|Official Language||Arabic and Berber|
|Government type||presidential republic
|Borders||Mauritiana, Mali, Niger, Libya, Tunisia, Morocco and Western Sahara|
|Life expectancy||76.59 years (2015)
Life expectancy at birth indicates the number of years a newborn infant would live if prevailing patterns of mortality at the time of its birth were to stay the same throughout its life.
|Independence||5 July 1962 (from France)
|National symbol||star and crescent, fennec fox; national colors: green, white, red
|National anthem||"Kassaman" (We Pledge)|
|Terrain||mostly high plateau and desert; some mountains; narrow, discontinuous coastal plain
|Natural resources||petroleum, natural gas, iron ore, phosphates, uranium, lead, zinc
|Industries||petroleum, natural gas, light industries, mining, electrical, petrochemical, food processing|
|Exports||$36.3 billion (2015 est.)
petroleum, natural gas, and petroleum products 97% (2009 est.)
|Imports||$52.65 billion (2015 est.)
capital goods, foodstuffs, consumer goods
|GDP - per capita (PPP)||$14,500 (2015 est.)
|Birth rate||23.67 births/1,000 population (2015 est.)
|Death rate||4.31 deaths/1,000 population (2015 est.)
|Sex ratio||1.01 male(s)/female (2015 est.)|
|Internet country code||.dz|
|Internet users||15.105 million
percent of population: 38.2% (July 2015 est.)
|Time Zone||CET (UTC+1)|
|Drives on the||Right|