Geography and Landscape


The People's Democratic Republic of Algeria, in Arabic 'Al-Djaza'ir' and in Berber´Lzayer´, is a country in North Africa, which together with Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania and Libya belongs to the Maghreb, a designation for the northwest of Africa but also a political unit under the name Union du Maghreb Arabe (UMA).

The surface of Algeria is 2,381,741 km2. Algeria has been the largest country in Africa since July 9, 2011, the day South Sudan gained independence. Until that date, Sudan was the largest country in Africa with an area of 2,505,813 km2 (now: 1,861,484 km2). Algeria has also moved up one place in the world ranking of largest countries and is now in 10th place.

Algeria is bordered to the west by Morocco (1900 km) and Western Sahara (41 km), to the southwest and south by Mauritania (460 km) and Mali (1359 km), in the south-east at Niger (951 km), in the east to Libya (989 km) and in the north-east to Tunisia (1034 km). In the mountainous north, Algeria borders the Mediterranean Sea and the coastline is 998 km long. The distance from Algiers in the north to Tamanrasset in the south is more than 2000 km, which is a greater distance than the distance from Algiers to Paris. 500 kilometers south from the coast begins the Sahara or the 'Great South', as the Algerians also call the desert. Algeria consists of four-fifths desert, which is clearly visible in the satellite photo below.

Algeria Satellite PhotoAlgeria Satellite PhotoPhoto: Public domain

The non-permanently inhabited Habiba Islands are located in the Sea of Alboran, the westernmost part of the Mediterranean, about 12 kilometers from the northwest coast of Algeria and the city of Oran. The archipelago, together only 0.4 km2 in size and originally volcanic, consists of two large islands, including the main island of Touria, and about 20 smaller islands. The maximum height of the archipelago is 103 meters.


Chot Melrhir, AlgeriaChot Melrhir, AlgeriaPhoto: Yelles CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Most Algerians live in the north of the country, especially in the narrow coastal plain, where the capital Algiers is located. The coast of Algeria is generally very rocky, but there are also many sandy beaches and bays. The lowest point in Algeria is Chott Melrhir, a salt lake in northeastern Algeria, which is also the largest lake in the country. Practically the whole lake is below sea level, and Algeria's lowest point is roughly in the middle of the lake at-40 meters.

Atlas Mountains AlgeriaAtlas Mountains AlgeriaPhoto: Omar le brave CC 4.0 International no changes made

The coastal region of Algeria gradually turns into the Atlas Mountains, a relatively young mountain range in northwest Africa that runs from west to east through Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia and is the same type of mountain range as the Alps in Europe. The Atlas Mountains can be divided into a number of smaller mountain ranges, in Algeria there is partly the Little Atlas (also called Tell-Atlas), and further the Sahara-Atlas and the Aurès mountains in its entirety.

The Small or Tell-Atlas is a mountain range that runs parallel to the Mediterranean coast for a length of approximately 1500 km through Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia, and eventually joins the Sahara-Atlas in eastern Algeria to form the Tébessa mountain range and the Medjerda mountain range. The Tell-Atlas has an average height of 1500 meters, with the highest point being the Lalla Khedidja (2308 m) in the Jurjura mountain range, part of the Tell-Atlas. The Tell-Atlas forms a natural barrier against the Mediterranean Sea and at the foot of this mountain range are cities such as Algiers and Oran. The Sahara Atlas forms a natural barrier against the Sahara Desert and between these two mountains lies the very fertile Chelif Valley and rivers such as the Chelif (also known as Chéliff or Sheliff, 725 km), the longest river in the country, the Medjerda (total 450 km), which flows from Northeast Algeria to Tunisia, and the Seybouse (225 km).

One of the most beautiful areas of Algeria is Tlemcen National Park in northwestern Algeria. In addition to the extensive forests of Zariffet and Aïn Fezza, this varied area also includes the waterfalls of Cascades d'El Ourit and the stalactite caves of Beni Add.

Medjerda, river in AlgeriaMedjerda, river in AlgeriaPhoto: DrFO.Jr.Tn CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The Sahara Atlas is mostly in Algeria with an eastern spur in Tunisia. This mountain range is more impressive than the Tell-Atlas, with the highest point being the Djebel Aissa (2236 m) in the Ksour mountain range. Other mountain ranges in the Sahara Atlas are Amour, Oued-Naïl, Hodna, Nememcha and Zab. To the south of the Sahara Atlas lie Hautes Plaines or Hauts Plateaux, a steppe-like plateau with grasses and low shrubs, where during the rainy season shallow salt lakes or reservoirs called 'chotts' are formed, which dry up again in the summer and then form salt plains. One of the largest lakes in this area is Chott Ech Chergui Lake. Hautes Plaines have an average elevation of 1100-1300 meters in the west and 400 meters in the east.

In the far northeast of Algeria lies the Aurès mountain range, with the highest peak being the Djebel Chélia (2328m) in the province of Khenchela. In the Belezma mountain range, part of the Aurès mountain range, the Tell Atlas and the Sahara Atlas meet and the highest peaks there are Djebel Refaâ (2178 m) and Djebel Tichaou (2136 m).

Mountains of Northwest AfricaMountains of Northwest AfricaPhoto: Public domain

On the south side of Hautes Plaines begins the Algerian Sahara (Sahara means desert in Arabic), a dry, empty and desolate area, but with a great variety of landscapes that also present themselves in all kinds of colors. The average altitude of the Algerian Sahara is 460 meters.

In the central part of the Algerian Sahara are the vast sandy deserts of the Eastern (Grand Erg Oriental, approx. 120,000 km2) and Western Erg (Grand Erg Occidental, approx. 80,000 km2), with oasis cities on the edge of the sand dunes such as El Oued in Northeast Algeria, El Menia in Central Algeria and Taghit in Western Algeria.

Taghit, oasis town in Western AlgeriaTaghit, oasis town in Western AlgeriaPhoto: Mohamed.benguedda CC 3.0 no changes made

The south of the Algerian Sahara is much more rocky and is dominated by the Ahaggar or Hoggar Mountains, home to the highest mountains in Algeria, the Tahat (3003 m), the L'Ilamane (2780 m) and the Assekrem (2788 m), a flattened mountain located on the Atakor plateau.

In the southeast of the Algerian Sahara lies the high plateau Tassili n'Ajjer with an area of approx. 72,000 km². This region, much of it a national park, is also known for the many thousands of prehistoric drawings from the Neolithic that have been found here since 1933. The highest point of Tassili n'Ajjer is the Adrar Afao (2158 m) and special are the remarkable and spectacular rock formations and 'rock forests' of eroded sand. Due to the erosion, there are also about 300 rock arches in this area.

Special rock formations features the Tassili n'Ajjer National Park in Southeast Algeria. Special rock formations features the Tassili n'Ajjer National Park in Southeast AlgeriaPhoto: Gruban CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Algeria straddles the continent where African and European continental plates rub against each other, causing earthquakes in the north of the country that sometimes have devastating effects. Small earthquakes are quite common, in July 2014 an earthquake killed six people and injured 420.

The largest earthquake measured, with a magnitude of 7.7 on the Richter Scale, was on October 10, 1980 in the province of Chlef. Approximately 5,000 people were killed and more than 9,000 slightly and seriously injuredand. Presumably heavier in strength, but not measured, was an earthquake in May 1716, which left an estimated 20,000 dead and several times more injured. Algeria has not been spared in the 21st century either, with earthquakes in 2003 (province of Boumerdès, 6.8 and province of Algiers, 5.8), 2010 (province of Bouïra, 5.1) and 2014 (province of Algiers, 5.6).

 Consequences of earthquake in Boumerdès (2003), 2,266 dead, more than 10,000 injured and approx. 200,000 homeless people Consequences of earthquake in Boumerdès (2003)Photo: Magharebia CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Climate and Weather

Algeria DroughtAlgeria DroughtPhoto: Madxk CC 4.0 International no changes made

Northern Algeria has a mild, Mediterranean climate, although local variations may occur due to the microclimates. Moreover, large differences can be observed from year to year in terms of rainfall and temperatures. It is not uncommon to have summer weather in winter and winter weather in late spring. As a result of these strong fluctuations, Northern Algeria is hit by floods and then again by long periods of drought. The average temperature is between 21 and 24°C, with regular daytime peaks above 35°C. Due to the high humidity, however, it is hardly to harden in the summer. In winter, the average temperature drops to 10-12°C and can feel quite cold at night. Even in a city like Sétif, at an altitude of 1096 meters, winter can strike and snow can fall. In the summer it is just very hot and in the spring the sirocco blows a dry, suffocating wind over the desert for several weeks.

The Sahara is of course known for its scorching temperatures and that is in Algeria not different. In summer, the temperature easily rises to values above 50°C in the middle of the day. But especially in winter, it can cool down considerably at night, even below freezing. The temperature of the soil can be more than 10°C higher than the air temperature.

Dark rain clouds gather over Annaba, Algeria Dark rain clouds gather over Annaba, AlgeriaPhoto: Faten Aggad CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Rainfall is certainly not uncommon on the coast in the north, especially in winter and spring. When it rains, it rains quite a bit, drizzle is almost non-existent. In the north, an average falls between 400 and 700 mm per year, but that amount increases from west to east and near Annaba along the Mediterranean coast in Northeast Algeria falls around 1000 mm annually. Inland it rains of course much less and in the summer hardly a drop falls. It is also very dry in the Sahara, in the desert city of In-Salah on average only 13 mm of rainfall per year. Yet it can unexpectedly rain extremely hard, even flooding as a result. In May 2007, torrential rains and hail storms caused the Sahara city of Hassi Messaoud to be flooded within eight hours.

Mediterranean coast
minimum temp.average temp.maximum temp.water temp.
Between Tell and Sahara Atlas
minimum temp.average temp.maximum temp.
Ahaggar Mountains
minimum temp.average temp.maximum temp.
minimum temp.average temp.maximum temp.

Climate table In-Salah, desert city in Central Algeria Climate table In-Salah, desert city in Central AlgeriaPhoto: Hedwig in Wahington CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Plants and Animals


Due to the size of the country, the landscapes of Algeria show all the vegetation types found in North Africa. A visit to Algiers' botanical garden Jardin d'Essai du Hamma is highly recommended in that regard. This botanical garden was founded in 1830 and contains one of the largest botanical collections in Africa.

Jardin d'Essai du Hamma, Algeria's largest botanical garden Jardin d'Essai du Hamma, Algeria's largest botanical gardePhoto: Ludovic Courtès CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Approx. 5000 years ago, much of the mountainous coastal region was covered with deciduous and coniferous forests. Cedars, pine, stone and cork oaks grew right up to the surf of the Mediterranean.

<p">As in many places in Africa, the landscape has changed drastically over thousands of years, mainly due to man. By clearing trees for more agricultural land, enormous areas of forests disappeared. There were also many forest fires, including during the War of Independence (1954-1962). Normally nature recovers quite quickly after a fire, but in Algeria new plantings and young shoots were immediately eaten by large goat herds. Since the late 1970s, forests have been planted again in a systematic manner.

New plant species were imported from other regions, such as tropical Africa, Southwest Asia, India and South-America. Thus, the olive tree spread as a characteristic tree throughout the Mediterranean region. This was introduced about 600 BC. by Phoenician merchants in Carthage (Tunisia) and Marsilia (Marseilles), and the Romans often used the olive tree as a border tree. At the time of Alexander the Great's conquests (331-324 BC), rice, cotton and citrus fruits were introduced in the Mediterranean, citrus trees at first even only as ornamental plants. Arab tribes spent between the 7th and 12th centuries AD. date palms, sugar cane and papyrus to North Africa. Even more exotic plants and trees were brought by the Portuguese from East Asia, after rounding the Cape of Good Hope in the 15th century. After 1492, completely new varieties were imported from the 'new world', North, Central and South America, including potatoes, corn, tomatoes, peanuts, paprika, agave, cacti and bougainvillea. From the mid-18th century, under the colonial rule of France, the Canary Islands palm, eucalyptus species and the mandarin tree were introduced.


The olive tree is one of the longest living cultivated plants, specimens more than a thousand years old are no exception. The fruits of this evergreen tree, with an oil percentage of 30-35%, are harvested between November and March.

Olive grove, AlgeriaOlive grove, AlgeriaPhoto: Petr Pakandi CC 2.5 Generic no changes made

Large contiguous coniferous forests are not common anymore in Algeria. Still, conifers such as the Aleppo pine, the maritime pine can still be seen in many places, but more in a solitary environment. Cypresses, including the Atlas cedar, which can also become very old, are also characteristic of the Mediterranean.

Special is the Algerian silver pine, which only occurs in Algeria, especially on the slopes of the Djebel Babor, the second highest mountain in Algeria.

Cork Oak AlgeriaCork Oak AlgeriaPhoto: Ballista CC 3.0 no changes made

Cork oaks are mainly found in the western Mediterranean, and when they are 15-20 years old one can start 'harvesting' the cork.

The fast-growing eucalyptus tree, about 50 species were introduced around 1850 from Australia, has a smooth, greenish trunk, is often lined with streets and provides plenty of shade.

Macchia of maquis

Macchia or maquis, thriving in a rocky, dry environment, is an evergreen and fairly impenetrable type of vegetation with man-sized (2-4 meters high) trees and aromatic bushes with often small, hard leaves. Typical species for this vegetationtype are the European dwarf palm, the only native palm species, heather broom species and spiny spurge species. If the conditions for the macchia deteriorate, a scrubland vegetation develops with mainly shrubs that do not exceed 1.5 meters, including the kermesik.


With the exception of the European dwarf palm, all palm species in Algeria come from tropical or subtropical regions such as the Cape region in South Africa or the coastal region of California. The dwarf palm is the only wild palm species native to the Mediterranean. The royal palm, native to South America and the Antilles, can often be found in parks.

European dwarf palm, the only native palm species of Algeria European dwarf palm, the only native palm species of Algeria Photo: Tato grasso CC 2.5 Generic no changes made

Fruit trees

The fig tree, which flowers three times a year and bears figs twice a year, is native to western Asia Minor. The crooked, thorny and multi-branched pomegranate tree also occurs as a shrub. The pomegranate forms the basis for grenadine, and the watery, sweet-tasting core of the fruit is eaten as a dessert. Apricots were used in the first century AD. from China via Persia, Armeni to Italy brought. The Arabs ensured the further spread of the apricot, as far as Algeria. Citrus fruits are exported from Southeast Asia and spread India to the rest of the world. Algeria has about 22,000 hectares of mandarin trees in use.

An ancient culture plant is the vine, which originated in the eastern Mediterranean and was spread by the Phoenicians and the Romans. Watermelons came to the countries around the Mediterranean already before Christ. These fruits thrive around Tamanrasset in the south of the Algerian Sahara.

In the culture of the Maghreb, the date palm is a symbol of life. The true date palm (Phoenix dactylifera), which is from Persia and Arabia has been found on the shores of the Mediterranean for 4000 years, making it one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world. The trunk of the date palm grows to a height of 10-30 meters, and the tree annually supplies about 20-50 kg of dates, also known as the 'bread of the desert'. Most dates are harvested from October when the tree is between 40 and 80 years old, and a tree can bear dates for about 100 years.

Dates are also used to make flour, the heart of the tree is used in salads, pressed dates yield 'date honey', the soft date wood is used in construction, mats, brooms, hats, baskets and sandals are made from the fibers of the trees, and the palm leaves are used for fences, among other things. There are about a hundred different types of dates, developed and cultivated over thousands of years, feeding millions of people. Algeria has about 7 million date palms, 6.7 million tons of dates were harvested in 2004, 450,000 tons in Algeria alone. In the entire Maghreb there are about 20 million date palms, 90% of the dates harvested in Algeria are for the local population, only 10% is exported.

Date palm is full of datesDate palm is full of dates, AlgeriaPhoto: B Simpson Cairocamels CC 3.0 no changes made

Flowers and plants

The oleander is a beloved evergreen, but poisonous shrub that is found throughout Algeria. From May to autumn, the oleanders bloom in many colors, from white, rose yellow to dark red.

The coasts of all countries bordering the Mediterranean are impossible to imagine without the beautiful creeper bougainvillea, they bloom from February to late autumn in the colors white, yellow, pink and dark red. The plant is native to South America and was introduced to Brazil for the first time. discovered by the French Admiral Antoine de Bougainville.

Typical steppe plants that occur in Algeria are agave, esparto or esparto grass, opuntia or disc cacti and castor or castor oil tree.

Agaves and disc cacti often together form the secretion between agricultural plots to keep sheep and goats out. Agaves only develop candlestick-like flowers of up to three after 10-15 yearsmeters high. The esparto or esparto grass is a very characteristic steppe plant that thrives on stony, marl-like soil. Esparto grass is used, among other things, to make rope; The fibers are used to make high-quality paper. Disc cacti still grow well on a dry, infertile soil where nothing else can grow. From March to April, the disc cactus bears large yellow flowers, from which fig-like, juicy fruits emerge at the end of August, which, for example, is used to make jam. The castor tree or castor oil tree is actually a shrub, belongs to the spurge family and can grow to a height of more than ten meters in a few years. Seeds of this very old cultivated crop have been found in 4,000-year-old Egyptian graves. Castor oil (castor oil) is pressed from the highly toxic castor oil beans, which is used in soaps, lubricants, perfumes and medicines.

Castor oil beans are poisonous but can be used for many purposes used Castor oil beans are poisonous but can be used for many purposes usedPhoto: Schnobby CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

In the Sahara, plants have each developed their own survival technique to defy the drought, because the soil of the Sahara is fertile, but it simply lacks sufficient water. For example, a single shower of rain can make the desert look like a sea of flowers. However, this is only an appearance, because the rain is retained by the plants until enough has fallen and the plant can germinate. The special thing about the seeds of these plants is that plants of the same species germinate under different humidity conditions. Some seeds germinate after one rain onion, others germinate after years. This varied germination keeps the species alive. Other species store moisture in roots or leaves to survive drought and scorching heat. Typical desert plants are the Sahara acacia, tamarisk, sodom apple, bitter melon and the herb cistanche. Special and very rare is the Sahara cypress or 'tarout', a conifer species of which there are only a few hundred in the Algerian Sahara. These trees grow to about 11 meters high and have roots that penetrate up to 60 meters deep into the soil to absorb water. All trees are in a national park that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They are among the oldest trees in the world with ages of over 3500 years.

The Sahara cypress is a of oldest trees in the world The Sahara cypress is a of oldest trees in the worldPhoto: Gruban CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Extract from plants, trees, flowers, herbs and grasses that are found in Algeria

strawberry treeyellow lookMale Orchid
field bedstrawyellow stenbergiamyrtle
Algerian oakcommon jasmineMarsh Orchid
Algerian sagegreat nymph herbswamp bedding
Algerian silver pinelarge-flowered lavaterared flax
anaboombig loosestrifeWhite Willow
atheltamariskharlequinornamental onion
Atlas cedarBumblebee Orchidsniporchis
henbanecentenary aloeSpanish barge or field maple
bosbingel herbhulsteikspear thistle
brown mirror orchidthin dravikprickly juniper
Chinese privetCarob treestemless primrose
three-horned bedstrawsmall canary grassSlender Thistle
true goldenrodlittle nymph herbfunnel malva
real bay leafsmall sea grasstreacle narcissus
squirrel grasslittle honey cloverfig tree
esparto or feather grassnodding thistleeyelash pearl grass
Phoenician Juniperbullet lookwoolly snowball
cow parsleycrow lookmaritime pine
French tamariskcrooked tailblack pine
yellow hypocistcrop pair

Yellow hypocistYellow hypocistPhoto: Bouba CC 3.0 Unported no changes made


Prehistoric petroglyphs by Tassili N'Ajjer, among others, indicate that elephants, giraffes and rhinos once roamed Algeria. At the moment, however, few mammals are left and can only be seen in very remote places. There are fewer than 100 mammal species in Algeria, of which several dozen are endangered in their existence. Species that are still common are gazelles, porcupine, antelope, common or golden jackal, Egyptian ichneumon or Egyptian mongoose, spotted hyena, wolf, wild boar and genet cat.

Fennec fox or desert fox, national animal of AlgeriaFennec fox or desert fox, national animal of AlgeriaPhoto: Umberto Salvagnin CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

In the mountainous areas of the Sahara, the very shy barbary sheep can still be found and the fennec fox or desert fox is perfectly adapted to the harsh conditions. The largest rodent in the Sahara is the North African gundi. In addition, in the Sahara there are also: desert cat, Cape hare and sand fox, dorcas gazelle, tailless Barbary macaque, Sahara cheetah, serval and Mediterranean or common monk seal.

Algeria has about 200 endemic bird species, of which about ten are endangered. Hundreds of millions of migratory birds still fly over the Sahara every year on their way to the warmth of Central Africa. Some complete that grueling journey in just 40 hours, about half dying along the way. Birds encountered in Algeria include lanner falcon, marble duck, muscovy partridge, blue rock thrush, greylag goose, golden eagle, crossbill and black-throated bunting. The desert sparrow is also referred to as 'moula moula' by the Tuaregs and this bird is said to bring good luck if it stays near a Tuareg camp.

Desert Sparrow or moula moulaDesert Sparrow or moula moula, AlgeriaPhoto: L.Shyamal CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The Algerian Nuthatch is an endemic passerine bird found only in the mountain forests of the Kabyli region. The Algerian Nuthatch is very similar to the Corsican Nuthatch and was only discovered in 1973. The El-Kala National Park, located between Annaba and the Tunisian border, is an important resting place during the migration for rare water birds such as tufted duck, white-headed duck and white-eyed duck. All heron species of North Africa are also found in this area, with Lac Tonga and the lagoons around El Kala as the most famous locations.

Overview animals in Algeria

Blasius' horseshoe batregular round-leaf noselate flyer
forest batgreat horseshoe batLong-winged bat or Schreiber's bat
Canary Islands long-eared batgreat red-tailed batMehely's Horseshoe Bat
Capaccini's batHemprich's Long-eared Batpurple horseshoe bat
trident leaf batpotted bat or eyelash batRueppel's piping bat
Egyptian blow-nosed batbald-bellied burial batSavi's pipistrelle bat
European free-tailed batlesser horseshoe batTheban slit-nosed bat
Phoenician-eared batlittle blow-nosed bat
Common Pipistrelle BatKuhl's Pipistrelle Bat

Deceased Theban Splenosed bat Deceased Theban Splenosed bat, AlgeriaPhoto: Bernard Dupont CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

African Wildcatstriped hyenalionserval
caracalstriped weaselleopardweasel
Egyptian ichneumoncommon jackalswamp mongoosedesert cat
fennekhoney badgerotterwolf
genetcatcheetahred foxsand fox

Desert cat or sand catDesert cat or sand cat, AlgeriaPhoto: Greg Hume CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Abyssinian hedgehogCape Hareshaw desert mouse
acomys seuratiCape cliff badger or rock cliff badgersteppe short-tailed badger or yellow-spot short-haired badger
Algerian gerbilsmall Egyptian race mouseSundeval gerbil
Algerian mouselittle desert jumping mousedraft hedgehog or Algerian hedgehog
Barbary ground squirrelrabbitgarden shrew
wood mouseLibyan gerbilfat sand rat
fat-tailed mouse or fat-tailed gerbilNorth African goendieyelash shrew
Egyptian spiny mouseNorth African elephant shrewdesert goendi
common porcupineGiant Desert Spring Mousedesert dormouse
large North African gerbilsavanna harezebra grass mouse

North African goendiNorth African goendi, AlgeriaPhoto: Oona Räisänen CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

blue marlinbig-faced sharkbluntnose sixgill shark
bluefin tunaGreat Hammerhead Sharkiron roughshark
blackberry sharkporbeaglespinning top shark
Cuvier's dolphinShortfin mako sharkbottlenose dolphin
Dark Belly Lantern Sharkleatherback turtleFalse Spurdog or Black Shark
minke whaleLoggerhead Turtlewhite shark
scalloped hammerhead sharkkiller whalesandbar shark or great finned shark
striped dolphinsperm whaleblacktip shark
Common Dolphinbasking sharkblacktip reef shark
regular octopus or crackrough gullet sharksand tiger shark
fin whaleDusky SharkBlack Killer Whale
gramper or gray dolphinbeaked dolphin
pilot whalebeaked sevengill shark

Blacktip Shark, AlgeriaBlacktip Shark, AlgeriaPhoto: public domain

addax of Mendes antelopeduingazelleman sheep
algazel or sabeloryxred deerNorthern Algerian Gazelle
damagazelleedmigazellewild boar or wild boar

Dorcasgazelles AlgeriaDorcasgazelles AlgeriaPhoto: Osado CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

African Thorn-tailed Dragoncommon chameleonwall gecko
boomslangregular pathSahara sand viper
Egyptian cobragreen pathtwo-fingered skink
European pond terrapinlittle three-fingered skinkdesert horn viper
European tjitjakMediterranean tree frogdesert monitor
fringe lizardSpurr-tighed tortoisesaw scale ladder

Spurr-tighed Tortoise, AlgeriaSpurr-tighed Tortoise, AlgeriaPhoto: Moise Nicu CC 3.0 Unported no changes made


Prehistory and antiquity

Hundreds of millions of years ago, the Sahara was covered with large inland seas. Decades ago, the situation had changed completely and the Sahara was an even bigger desert than it is today. Evidence of human presence in present-day Algeria dates back to 1.8 million years ago;in 1992 the Oldowan hand tools were found near Ain Hanech in northern Algeria and fossils of a 700,000-year-old Homo erectus near Ternefine. Tens of thousands of years ago, the Sahara transformed into one large oasis with extensive forests, lakes and a pleasant Mediterranean climate. At the time, mainland Europe was experiencing an ice age.

Oldowan implementsOldowan Implements, AlgeriaPhoto: Didier Descouens CC 4.0 International no changes made

The climate could have been the reason that 15,000-10,000 years ago different groups came together and a Neolithic (new stone age) culture with agricultural techniques and a (semi) permanent habitation arose. Petroglyphs and sculptures, found in Tassili n'Ajjer National Park, among others, are important sources that tell something about the way of life in those bygone times.

 Sleeping Antelope, petroglyph found on the Tassili n'Ajjer Plateau, Southeast Algeria Sleeping Antelope, petroglyph found on the Tassili n'Ajjer Plateau, Southeast AlgeriaPhoto: Linus Wolf CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

It is believed that this Neolithic population is the origin of the Berbers, the original indigenous people of North Africa. By the time the Phoenicians, a seafaring people from what is now Lebanon, reached the coasts of what is now Algeria, the Berber tribes, made up of nomadic herders, hunters, and farmers, had settled permanently in Algerian territory.

Around 1000 BC. attracted by the strategic location of the Algerian coastal area, the Phoenicians founded the first trading posts that engaged in trade to Spain, but did nothing to further develop the occupied Algerian territory. That did not happen until the 7th century BC. with the construction of permanent settlements such as Hippo Regius, Saldae and Cesare. Of much greater importance, however, would be the foundation of Carthage, located in present-day Tunisia, in 814 BC. to be. Within a few centuries, Carthage would grow into a powerful, independent trading empire, although the Phoenicians still established settlements on the Algerian coast. Around the 4th century BC. Carthage controlled the North African coast from Tripolitania (now Northwest Libya) to the Atlantic Ocean. Even now little attention was paid to the Berber hinterland, much more important to Carthage's interests were a series of safe havens and the protection of the trade routes. The Berbers were more or less forced to move to the mountains and the desert, pay taxes and serve in the Carthaginian army.

Phoenician trade routesPhoenician trade routesPhoto: Yom CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Carthaginian and Roman Empire in 264 BC Carthaginian and Roman Empire in 264 BCPhoto: Jon Platek Besvo CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

At the time, the Roman Empire was on the rise, and Carthage was inevitably affected, ultimately resulting in the Punic Wars and the downfall of Carthage. In the First Punic War (263-241 BC) between Carthage and the Roman Empire, Carthage lost many naval battles, was forced to destroy Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica, but managed to consolidate its position in North Africa for the time being. In 204 BC. a Roman army landed at Utica (now in Tunisia), Carthage capitulated and lost its fleet and all its overseas territories. The decline of Carthage increased the power of the Berber kingdoms, including the kingdom of Numidia in northeastern Algeria, which was founded in the 2nd century BC. from the capital Cirta Regia (now the city of Constantine) was led by King Massinissa. The severely weakened Carthage still somewhat held out against the attacks of Massinissa, but a new attack by the Romans in 146 BC. marked the end of the Carthaginian empire. Meanwhile, Massinissa was in 148 BC. died and the Berber kingdoms were left in chaos.

Massinissa (c .239- c.148 BC) Massinissa (c.239 - c.148 v.Chr.)Photo: Public domain

After the takeover of Carthage, the Romans soon controlled the entire north of present-day Libya. and then turned west, where the Numidian ruler Jugurtha, the grandson of Massinissa, slaughtered a number of Romans who aided Adherbal, a Roman ally who defended the city of Cirta Regia against the Numidis. Jugurtha managed to fend off a number of attacks from the Romans, but was finally destroyed in 105 BC. betrayed by Bocchus I, king of the Berber empire of Mauretania. The newly acquired land, intended to function as the granary of the Roman Empire, was given to settlers by the Romans, and in 46 BC. Roman Emperor Julius Caesar defeated the last Jumidian king, Juba I. Bocchus II of Mauretania died in 33 BC. and left his empire to the Romans, who appointed Juba II, who was married to the daughter of Mark Anthony and Cleopatra, as ruler. After the murder of Juba's son, Ptolemy, the kingdom was divided in two, Mauretania Caesariensis, whose capital was Caesarea (now in Algeria), and Mauretania Tingitana, whose capital was Tingis (now Tangier, Morocco). From this time to the fall of the Roman Empire in the 4th century AD. the Algerian part was a stable and integral part of the Roman Empire and several settlements were founded, Tipasa (now: Tipaza), Cuicul (now: Djemila), Sitifis (now: Sétif) and Thamugadi (now: Timgad), the largest Roman settlement ever built in North Africa. In total, the Romans founded more than 500 settlements in Northern Algeria.

Location Mauretania Caesariensis and Mauretania TingitanaLocation Mauretania Caesariensis and Mauretania TingitanaPhoto: Kazvorpal CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

However, this period of prosperity was at the expense of the Berbers, who lost agricultural land as well as more and more autonomy. The Berbers revolted regularly, and the Romans' response was the construction by Emperor Trajan (AD 53-117) of a number of fortresses to mark the southern border of the Roman area. The southernmost point of Roman Algeria at that time was Castellum Dimmidi (currently Messaad), some 250 km south of present-day Algiers. After the conversion in 313 of Emperor Constantine the Great (ca. 280-337) to the ever-expanding Christianity, many Romans but also Berbers in Algeria followed his example. At that time, Saint Augustine became bishop of Hippo Regius (now Annaba in Northeast Algeria). In the 4th century, one tribal uprising followed another, a faint sign that the end of Roman Algeria was approaching.

Roman ruins in Djémila, Northern Algarve Roman ruins in Djémila, Northern Algarve Photo: Yelles CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Middle Ages and the arrival of Islam

In the 5th century, Algeria was conquered by the East Germanic Vandals under the leadership of King Geiserik. In 429 Geiserik decided to move with the entire Vandal people from Spain to North Africa. He advanced to Hippo Regios and during the siege of that city Saint Augustine lost his life. Soon all of northeastern Algeria was in the hands of the Vandals, and by the middle of the century the western Mediterranean was practically wiped from the hands of the ships of Geiserik and the western Roman Empire.

The Vandal Geiserik conquers and loots Rome at June 455 The Vandal Geiserik conquers and loots Rome at June 455Photo: Public domain

North Africa was not really colonized by the Vandals, they were more interested in looting and more overseas conquests. Outside the fortresses of the Vandals, the Berber tribes took back control, rebelled and founded a number of kingdoms again. Meanwhile, the Byzantine emperor Constantine the Great had revived the Eastern Roman Empire and planned to reclaim the western half of the empire as well. The Roman general Flavius Belisarius (500-565) defeated the Vandals in 533, but in fact got no further than control of a number of coastal towns and some inland settlements. The Berbers continued to resist the invaders and Byzantium did not make itself popular by massively increasing taxes.

Vandals migration routesVandals migration routesPhoto: Public domain

Lack of Byzantine control made it easy for Arab cavalry to take possession of North Africa. Egypt was conquered from Damascus in 640 by the soldiers of Amr ibn al-As, but under army leader Uqba bin Nafi al-Fihri, the Islamization of North Africa was only beginning to take shape. From 669 onwards, he moved west through North Africa, founded the first major Muslim city in the Maghreb, Al-Qayrawan, present-day Kairouan in Tunisia, and is said to have even reached the Atlantic Ocean. In 698 the last vestiges of Byzantine rule had disappeared and as early as 712 the entire region was removed from Andalucia in Spain to the Levant, an area in the west of the present-day Middle East, in the hands of the Umayyad caliphs. Uqba's successor, Abu al-Muhajir Dina, was responsible for introducing Islamic law in Algeria, converting the Berbers, and appointed Umayyad governors who ruled Eastern Algeria. Despite the Berbers' conversion to Islam, this people remained loyal to its own culture and resisted the Arabization of its area. The interior was again ravaged by Berber uprisings, the largest of which took place in 740 from Morocco and defeated the Umayyad armies west of Al-Qayrawan.

Caliphate of the UmayyadsCaliphate of the UmayyadsPhoto: Gabagool CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

In 750, the caliphate moved from the Umayyads in Damascus to the Abassids in Baghdad and the western Muslim area, North Africa and Spain, split from the eastern Muslim area. Eventually three Islamic kingdoms arose in North Africa, the Idirissids from Fez in Morocco (788-985), the Aghlabids from Kairouan in Tunisia (800-909) and the Rustamids from the Algerian province of Tiaret (777-909). From 761 to 909 much of Central and Northern Algeria was ruled by Abd al-Rahman ibn Rustum. The Rustamids were enlightened rulers of Algeria, they were deeply interested in art and science, were righteous and did not allow corruption. However, they forgot to build a strong army and were easily expelled by the caliphate of the Fatamids, followers of the Isma'ilite movement within Shia Islam, who ruled from 909 to 1171. In 969, the Fatamids marched with a Berber army into Egypt, conquered the then capital Fustat and founded a new capital al-Qahira, present-day Caïro. Before they moved to Egypt, power in North Africa was transferred to the Berber Zirids (972-1148), founders of Algiers, who made Algeria a regional power for the first time in history. As far as religion was concerned, they were anti-Shia and turned to the anger of the Fatamids to the Sunni direction of Islam. Tribes from Upper Egypt and the Arabian Peninsula were called upon to fight the Zirids and by 1148 Northern Algeria was fully Arabized.

Empire of the Fatamids at the peak of power Empire of the Fatamids at the peak of powerPhoto: Gabagool CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

In the 10th century the power of the Idrissids in Morocco (788-985) evaporated, but soon a new Berber power emerged from the Sahara. Inspired by the theologian Abdullah bin Yasin, an alliance of Berber tribes, the Sanhaja confederation, was formed. The Sanhaja Confederation started a series of wars in the Southern and Central Sahara to control the trans-Saharan (gold) routes threatened by the Zenata Berbers from the north.

The Sanhaja were called 'al-mulathamin' because of their veils and 'al-murabitin' because of their fortresses, later known by the derived name Almoravids. In 1062, Almoravid leader Youssef bin Tachin, with Marrakesh as its capital, founded an empire that stretched at its peak from Senegal to Zaragoza in northern Spain and east to Algiers. Among the Almoravids, scientists and philosophers were highly regarded, other faiths were tolerated and women played an important role in society. Later still, the Almoravids allowed themselves more and more freedoms that were at odds with the principles of Islam. Another Moroccan dynasty, that of the Almohads, had had enough and in 1146 Marrakech was conquered from the Almoravids and the last Almoravid king, Ishaq ibn Ibrahim, was killed. Not long after, in 1160, the whole of Algeria was in the hands of the Almohads and eventually the Almohad Caliphate ruled the Maghreb and southern Spain.

Empire of the Almohads in ca. 1200Empire of the Almohads in ca. 1200Photo: Gabagool CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

However, the success went too quickly and internal strife meant that the caliphate was almost over in 1244 at the hands of the Merinids, a Moroccan tribe of Zenata-Berbers. In Spain the Almohads were succeeded by the Nasrids, in Tunisia and parts of Libya by the Hafsiden and in Algeria by the Zianiden or Banu Abd al-Wad. The Zianids later formed a coalition with Granada in Spain, but had to bow twice to the power of the Merinids in the 14th century and were a puppet state of the Hafsids in the 15th century.

Ottoman Algeria

In 1492 the Muslims (Moors) were expelled from Spain and Spain became the leading nation in North Africa, aided by a series of fortresses or 'presidios' built along the coast to provide money from passing ships and from domestic tribes. In Algeria, such fortifications were founded in Mers el-Kebir (1505), Oran (1509), Tlemcen (1510) and Algiers (1510). The Spanish Fort of Santa Cruz still exists.

At the same time, the Turkish pirate Barbarossa and his brother Arudj were allowed to settle on the Tunisian island of Djerba. Arudj conquered Algiers from the Spaniards from Djerba in 1515, but Algiers was recaptured in 1518 and Arudj did not survive. Barbarossa then decided to unite with the Ottoman Turks in order to better defend his possessions. And indeed, with the help of the Ottomans, Barbarossa managed to control the entire Algerian coast, from Oran to Constantine. Clever as he was, he offered Algiers to the Ottomans, and received Algiers as a reward for being appointed governor there by the Ottomans. Later he was also appointed admiral of the Ottoman fleet. Algiers, meanwhile, had become the main base of support for the Ottomans in North Africa.

Barbarossa Khair ad- Din Pasha (ca. 1475-1546) Barbarossa Khair ad-Din Pasha (ca. 1475-1546)Photo: Public domain

The Spaniards tried hard to break the increasing power of the Ottomans, but in 1551 Tripoli fell to the Ottomans, in 1574 Tunis suffered the same fate. Together with Algeria, these three provinces were governed by a pasha, assisted by a 'dej', an administrative governor, and a 'bej', a military governor and commander-in-chief of the Janissaries, or 'ojaq', soldiers. In Algeria, real power was in the hands of the dej, the pasha had more of a ceremonial function. The dej's power in Algeria disappeared in 1671, when the last dej appointed by the Ottomans was assassinated. During the Ottoman period, Algeria was divided into three provinces with the capitals Constantine, Médéa (south of Algiers) and, since 1791, Oran. Inland, Berber tribes retained a certain autonomy. In retrospect, the entire Ottoman rule did not amount to much, for Algeria, Tunisia and Tripolitania acted as they saw fit and often even fought among themselves. Barbary piracy was also still flourishing and played a major role in the local economy. European powers often tried to do something about this, but that still ended in failure.

 Ahmed I (1590-1617) established a trade relationship between Algeria and the Netherlands Ahmed I (1590-1617) established a trade relationship between Algeria and the NetherlandsPhoto: Public domain

French Algeria

The French presence in North Africa began in 1830 with a blockade and attack on Algiers. The reason for this would have been that the Algerian dej would have insulted the French consul, but the real reason was most likely that King Charles X (1757-1836) needed military success to disguise his weak position in France. Within three weeks of the landing of over 30,000 French troops, Algiers was captured and a period of murders, rapes and mosques destroyed. Algeria was officially annexed by France in 1834 and the colony was from that time ruled by a 'régime du saber' (government of the sword) headed by a military governor-general. In 1832 Oran and in 1836 especially the bej van Constantine revolted against the French. Constantine managed to defeat the French, but a year later the French conquered Constantine again.

Great man in the conflict with the French, and later proclaimed a national hero, was Abdelkader ibn Muhieddine, a sharif (descendant of Mohammed's daughter Fatima), who was recognized in the Treaty of Desmichels (1834) and took control of Western and Central Algeria. However, this got out of hand, because at the end of 1838 two thirds of Algeria was under Abdelkader's control. As it were, a separate state emerged with its own legal and administrative system.

Abdelkader ibn Muhieddine (1808-1883) ) Abdelkader ibn Muhieddine (1808-1883)Photo: Etienne Carjat in the public domain

France did not let this go by itself and by 1840 there were already more than 100,000 French troops, led by the French General Thomas-Robert Bugeaud, in Algeria, about a third of the entire French army. In the six-year battle between Bugeaud's and Abdelkader's troops, the latter was forced to flee to Morocco in 1844, where he enlisted the help of Sultan Abd ar-Rahman. That help came but did not affect the outcome of the battle, in 1846 the Algerian/Moroccan army was defeated at Isly. Abdelkader surrendered to the French and in return the promise that he could live somewhere in the Middle East. However, he spent until 1852 in a number of French prisons, after which he was allowed to leave and settled in Damascus. In 1847 Bugeaud had conquered most of Algeria and was proclaimed Governor General, but it was not until 1871 that Northern Algeria was defeated after fierce resistance from the Berbers in the Kabylie region. In 1848, Algeria was officially considered part of France. Also further south, the French conquered more and more land, mainly from the Tuaregs, and in 1902 Algeria's current borders were established.

Meeting between General Bugeaud and some Algerians in 1846 Meeting between General Bugeaud and some Algerians in 1846 Photo: Public domain

During the first fifty years of the French occupation, besides French, many Italian, Maltese and Spanish colonists (colons), and even Sephardic Jews, settled in Algeria. And this was all at the expense of the native population and its culture. A poignant example was the transformation of the Djemaa el-Kebir mosque in Algiers into the Saint Philip cathedral. This created more and more frictions between the French government and the so-called 'pied-noirs', descendants of the colonists mentioned above.

Symbol of the Pied NoirsSymbol of the Pied NoirsPhoto: Public domain

In 1871, the Kabyli an uprising that spread across the country. The French hit back hard, taking more tribal lands, even higher taxes, and military oppression even more oppressed. Algerians were also imprisoned without trial and education for the Algerian children barely got off the ground. However, a small number of upper-class Muslim children were sent to French universities, the so-called 'volués'. France later regretted this, because these students soon began to wonder why the freedoms that applied to France did not apply to their own country, Algeria. From this group of highly educated critical students a nationalist movement would grow. And the more than 170,000 Algerians who fought for the Allies in World War II also had increasing doubts about the French occupation of Algeria. One of the popular leaders at the time was Khaled ibn Hashim (1875-1936), a grandson of Abdelkader ibn Muhieddine, the former military and religious leader of Algeria. He had also studied in Paris, had been an officer in the French army and had fought in the First World War.

The call by mostly young Algerians for independence and at least a much greater autonomy was getting louder and there were cautiously also formed some nationalist groups. In France, this culminated in 1937 with the foundation of the Parti du Peuple Algérien under the leadership of Messali Hadj (1898-1974), demanding full independence, followed by the establishment of the Association, previously founded by Sheikh Abd al-Hamid ben Badis. des Uléma Musulmans Algériens, a more religiously oriented alliance, in Algeria.

Abd al-Hamid Ben Badis (1889-1940) Abd al-Hamid Ben Badis (1889-1940)Photo: Yelles, M.C.A CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Algeria has also suffered from World War II, and was also important in that the headquarters of Charles de Gaulle's free French and the British and American war planners from Algiers devised their plans of attack. Winston Churchill and the American General Eisenhower were often to be found in Algiers from 1943. The port of Annaba was often bombed by the Germans in the period 1942-1943. At the start of the war, many French battleships lay in the naval port of Mers el-Kabir of Oran. When France capitulated to the Germans in 1940, the British attacked the French ships to prevent them from falling into German hands. However, this cost the lives of about 1,300 French sailors.

Anti-aircraft gun during a German air strike on AlgiersAnti-aircraft gun during a German air strike on AlgiersPhoto: Public domain

Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962)

Both secular and Islamic nationalist groups were popular in Algeria, but would later face each other. After World War II, French repression continued in Algeria, even though the President of France, Charles de Gaulle, decided to give certain groups of Muslims French citizenship. However, this was considered far from enough, and an uprising ensued near Sétif, killing more than a hundred Europeans. Bloody reprisals from the French followed, more than 45,000 Algerian Muslims (according to historians it would be 'only' about 6,000 dead) were killed by the French. In 1947, all Algerian Muslims were given French citizenship and the right to live and work in France. For the French, however, independence was still too far.

On November 1, 1954, a number of Algerian guerillas or 'maquisards' founded the Front de Libération Nationale (FLN), with the aim to overthrow the French government in Algeria by military means and get the world community behind it through foreign diplomacy. Attacks on French government institutions followed and an appeal was made to all Algerians to join the fight "according to the principles of Islam." The answer of the French Minister of the Interior, the future President François Mitterand, was clear, 'the only negotiation is war'. The Algerian War of Independence was a fact at that time.

Algerian War of Independence Photo CollageAlgerian War of Independence Photo CollagePhoto: Public domean

In addition to the French army as its opponent, the FLN also had to deal with cruel vigilante-like groups in the countryside, whose actions caused hundreds of thousands of 'colons' to flee to the capital Algiers. In an attempt to quell the revolt, De Gaulle decided to send Jacques Soustelle to Algeria as governor-general with favorable economic proposals for the ordinary Algerian. However, this gesture came too late, almost at the same time the FLN massacred 123 French civilians in August 1955 at Philippeville (near Constantine). The reaction of the French was again disproportionate: about 12,000 Algerians were killed and all-out war broke out. From 1956 the FLN was supported by Nasser's Egypt, in addition to the support of the former French colonies of Morocco and Tunisia. In response, the French built a barbed wire fence and watchtowers on the borders with Morocco and Tunisia. In the same year, the FLN launched guereilla tactics in Algiers and other cities, followed in 1957 by a national strike and hundreds of often night-time lightning strikes and ambushes on both military and civilian French targets. The 400,000-strong French army, but also about 150,000 'harkis', France-loyal Muslims, reacted, as always, with great violence. Torture was commonplace and entire villages and families were harshly punished and forced to relocate if they were suspected of sympathy for the FLN, with more than two million Algerians evicted from their homes.

Independence Day is still celebrated in AlgeriaIndependence Day is still celebrated in AlgeriaPhoto: Public domain

In 1958, the colons appealed to De Gaulle for even tougher measures and this seemed to be successful. In 1959, France had Algeria under military control, but in France itself support for the struggle in Algeria fell somewhat, and several other colonies in Africa were on their way to independence. As a result, the colons gradually got the idea that Algeria was also on the way to independence and now saw their previous hero De Gaulle as a traitor. In a last attempt to turn the tide, De Gaulle faced two coups and the terrorist Organization de l'Armée Secrète (OAS) caused a lot of unrest with a number of attacks. But the genie was definitely out of the bottle, and in May 1961 negotiations were held between the French government and the FLN. The first result was a ceasefire from 19 March 1962 and a referendum among the Algerians with a predictable outcome: six million Algerians for independence, only 16,000 against. There was now no going back. De Gaulle proclaimed independence on July 3, which became official on September 25, 1962. Immediately a great exodus of French colonists began. The sad result of the war was about 1 million Algerian dead, 18,000 French soldiers killed and 10,000 dead Europeans from other countries.

Algeria independent

Ahmed ben Bella, one of the leaders of the Algerian uprising who had represented Algeria mainly abroad during the war of independence, became the first president of the independent Republic of Algeria and stood for a socialist Arab-Islamic state. Despite the euphoria about independence, old feuds and rivalries soon flared up again and years of war left the country in organizational chaos. Ben Bella came under severe pressure and was deposed as early as 1965 by the Secretary of Defense and FLN Commander, Colonel Houari Boumédienne.

Ahmed ben Bella (1918-2012) in conversation with Cuban president Fidel Castro Ahmed ben Bella (1918-2012) in conversation with Cuban president Fidel CastroPhoto: Public domain

Boumédienne immediately dissolved parliament, suspended the constitution and installed a military council, headed by himself. Ben Bella was exiled, lived on in Switzerland, and did not return until 1990 to lead his party, the Mouvement pour la démocratie en Algérie (MDA). Boumédienne was a cautious and above all pragmatic man, who focused mainly on improving the economic situation of the country. That economy had suffered enormously from the departure of, in particular, many skilled European administrators and technicians. Another major problem was the very high unemployment rate, which meant that many Algerians took refuge in France for a job. Politically almost nothing changed under Boumédienne, the FLN was the only political party. A new constitution was not introduced until 1976. Algeria officially became a party state and Boumédienne president. Algeria's economic situation was eventually saved after the discovery and exploitation of oil and gas fields in southern Algeria, although the large amount of money that was made in doing so did not really end up by the common man.

Houari Boumédienne (1932-1978) Houari Boumédienne (1932-1978)Photo: Public domain

Colonel Boumédienne died in December 1978 and Colonel Chadli Bendjedid was internally elected by the FLN as Algeria's third president. During the Bendjedid reign, which lasted twelve years until 1992, social tensions increased further. Berber students flocked to the ongoing Arabization of government and education. The government made some small pledges to the students, but this sparked furious protests from conservative, straightforward Islamists, who took to the streets to express their displeasure. The police intervened hard, but on the other hand, new mosques were opened and the rights of women were further limited as a remedy. The measures that Bendjedid took to improve the sad state of the economy were also viewed with great suspicion by the old FLN mastodons. The bastion of socialist economic control, a central planning authority, was disbanded and companies and banks were given much more freedom to do business. In 1988, massive strikes resulted in riots in Algiers, and subsequently in cities such as Annaba, Blida and Oran. The violence in the 'October riots' or 'Black October' claimed the lives of about five hundred people. However, the government stood its ground and liberalized society from 1989 onwards. There was more freedom of the press and the political system was also shaken up by the constitutionally permitting political parties other than the FLN. Abassi Madani and Ali Belhadj founded the Front Islamique du Salut (FIS), or Islamic Rescue Front, in 1989, which quickly gained popularity and started winning local elections.

On December 26, 1991, the first free parliamentary elections were held in which several political parties were allowed to participate. The FIS caused a landslide by winning 188 of the 231 parliament seats to be won, the FLN only won 15, even ten less than the Front des Forces Socialistes (FFS), a Berber party with a lot of support in the Kabyli region. However, this went way too far and the army intervened hard. Parliament was dissolved in early 1992, Bendjedid was forced to resign, the second round of the elections was canceled, a state of emergency was declared in February 1992, and the FIS was banned. FIS leaders Madani and Belhadj were arrested and other leaders fled abroad.

Third President of Algeria: Chadli BendjedidThird President of Algeria: Chadli BendjedidPhoto: Public domain

Bendjedid was initially replaced by a five-person Haut Conseil d'Etat (HCE) headed by President Mohammes Boudiaf. However, Boudiaf was murdered after six months under very suspicious circumstances by a 'lone wolf' who allegedly had religious motives, but it was more likely that Boudiaf had fallen victim to his efforts to eradicate institutionalized corruption in his country. to deal with. Boudiaf was succeeded on July 2, 1992 by FLN hardliner Ali Kafi (1928-2013), who in turn was replaced on January 31, 1994 by a former general, Liamine Zéroual, who took office as Algeria's ninth president in a period that Algeria was on the brink of civil war.

The civil war, already referred to as the 'second liberation war' by militants, had already claimed the lives of more than 3000 people in April 1994, including quite a few foreigners. The guerrillas, united in groups such as Groupes Islamiques Armés (GIA) and the Mouvement Islamique Armé(MIA), mainly targeted police officers, mayors, judges and Francophile intellectuals. The government responded to the violence of these groups with massive arrests of suspects and the setting up of paramilitary death squads to retaliate against guerrilla activities. President Zéroual was unable to reduce the violence, however, as a GIA-set bomb exploded in the Paris metro in July 1995 and an Air France plane was hijacked in Algiers in December of that year. Constitutional reforms were promised in November 1996, but the situation worsened. More than 300 people were murdered in the first two weeks of Ramadan, often through ritual massacres.

Liamine Zéroual, ninth president of Algeria Liamine Zéroual, ninth president of AlgeriaPhoto: Reda Kerboush CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

In 1998, President Zéroual was forced to resign and the military appealed to former Foreign Minister Abdelaziz Bouteflika to become president. Bouteflika 'won' the 1999 elections, there were seven candidates who, however, withdrew on election day, and he announced a policy of reconciliation and nationall unit. A number of Islamist fighters were even offered amnesty if they surrender their weapons and he corrected the image that in the civil war so far 'only' 26,000 would have been killed according to official government position. Bouteflika admitted that there had been at least 100,000, and in addition, for the first time ever by the government, he admitted that the 1992 electoral cancellation had been an 'act of violence' against the FIS.

In June 1999, Bouteflika received a guarantee from the leader of the FIS that the guerrilla branch, the GIA, would no longer turn against the government, and asked other terrorist groups to do the same. A split is beginning to emerge in the GIA, with some members looking to participate in the peace process. These signs of optimism are reinforced when a number of Muslim terrorists want to grant amnesty. In July 1999, on the 37th anniversary of an independent Algeria, some 5,000 prisoners were released.

In a September 1999 referendum, Bouteflika received strong support for his plans to end the civil war: Approximately 85% of Algerians entitled to vote took part in the referendum and 98% voted in favor of the president's plans.

Abdelaziz Bouteflika announces as President of Algeria his vote Abdelaziz Bouteflika announces as President of Algeria his vote Photo: Magharebia CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

In 2004, President Bouteflika was re-elected for a second term and continued his program of national reconciliation, reform of the national economy and opening abroad. That second term was only possible due to a change in the constitution regarding the maximum number of terms of office for a president.

Even in his second term as president, Algeria continued to suffer from high unemployment, a housing shortage, electricity and water problems and an inefficient and corrupt civil service.

In 2006, the Groupe Salafite pour la Prédiction et le Combat (GSPC), an offshoot of the GIA, joined Al-Qaeda and changed to January 25, 2007 its name in Al-Qaïda au Maghreb Islamique (QMI), which is characterized as a terrorist organization in the United States, Canada and Great Britain, among others.

In 2007 there are many QMI bombings and kidnappings in Algeria targeting the government and Western individuals and interests in Algeria.

In June 2008, President Bouteflika appointed Ahmed Ouyahia as new prime minister. Ouyahia became Prime Minister of Algeria for the third time, from December 31, 1995 to December 15, 1998, from May 5, 2003 to May 24, 2006, and from June 23, 2008 to September 3, 2012.

In November 2008 Parliament passed a constitutional amendment paving the way for a third term for Boutaflika, who clearly won the presidential election in April 2009 and could begin his third term as president.

Ahmed Ouyahia, Prime Minister of AlgeriaAhmed Ouyahia, Prime Minister of AlgeriaPhoto: Magharebia CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

During the 2010-2012 period of the Arab Spring, protests continued throughout Algeria from December 28, 2010, inspired by similar protests in the Middle East and the rest of North Africa. Causes of these demonstrations included unemployment, housing shortages, increasing food prices, corrupt government, restrictions on freedom of expression and poor living conditions. Local protests were commonplace long before 2010, but the wave of demonstrations and riots, fueled by a sudden rise in food prices, were unprecedented so far. The government quickly intervened by cutting food prices, but the genie was already out of the bottle and the situation escalated with a number of self-immolations for government buildings. Despite the declaration of a state of emergency, opposition parties, trade unions and human rights organizations began to hold weekly demonstrations without the permission of the government. The government suppressed these demonstrations as much as possible, but lifted the state of emergency. Protests by unemployed young people against high youth unemployment, oppression and infrastructure problems were still scattered across the country on an almost daily basis inmajor cities.

In 2011, in response to the Arab Spring in Tunisia and Egypt, for example, the Algerian government proposed political reforms, such as ending the 19-year state of emergency and increasing the number of women who worked for the government. In October 2011, the second metro in Africa went into operation in Algiers.

On 3 September 2012, Abdelmalek Sellal was appointed Prime Minister by President Bouteflika to succeed Ahmed Ouyahia. Parliamentary elections in May 2012 and provincial elections in November 2012 were won by the FLN, while Islamist opposition parties performed poorly. foreign workers. An Algerian security guard and 38 foreigners were killed before elite forces of the Algerian army recaptured the complex.

In April 2013, Bouteflika was nursed in France after suffering a stroke. Political protests from the population were limited in 2013, except for some violent socio-economic demonstrations by various groups.

In July 2014, Bouteflika returned to Algeria, where he ran for another presidential election in 2014 and was re-elected for a fourth term in April. He received help from Sellal, who briefly stepped down as prime minister and acted as campaign leader for Bouteflika during the election period. His replacement was Youcef Yousfi, on April 28, 2014 Sellal resumed his position as Prime Minister. With a turnout of 51.7%, Bouteflika obtained a large majority with 81.53% of the votes. Its main competitor Ali Benflis received only 12.8% of the vote.

Abdelmalek Sella, Prime Minister of AlgeriaAbdelmalek Sella, Prime Minister of AlgeriaPhoto: Rama CC 2.0 France no changes made

In September 2014, the kidnapped French tourist Hervé Gourdel was beheaded by Muslim extremists from the Jund al-Khilafa (Soldiers of the Caliphate) group. Gourdel was kidnapped in the Djurdjura Mountains, southeast of the capital, Algiers. In February 2015, it was announced that there are two Algerian universities in the new ranking of the best universities in the Arab world. The Djillali Liabes University of Algiers was ranked 12th, the University of Bejaia 27th. Less attractive was that in the same month it was announced that Algeria was one of the twenty countries that dumped the most plastic waste in the sea. Algeria was ranked 13th in the top marine pollutants ranking by the University of Georgia and the Massachusetts Sea Education Association. In September 2015, President Bouteflika fired Mohammed Mediene, who has been the head of the security service for 25 years. In February 2016, parliament will implement reforms, Berbers will be given official status and the president may only be elected for 2 terms. In May 2017, the government will retain its majority after parliamentary elections. In January 2018, the traditional New Year of the Berbers will become a national holiday. In April 2019, Bouteflika will resign after continuing street protests. Abelkader Bensalah speaker of parliament will become interim president and succeeded in December 2019 by Terboune. Abdelaziz Djerad becomes the new Prime Minister.


Algerian women in traditional costumesAlgerian women in traditional costumesPhoto: Yves Jalabert CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Together, Arabs and Berbers make up 99% of the Algerian population. It is actually impossible to say how many Arabs and how many Berbers live in Algeria. Intermarriage between these population groups has been so massive for centuries that it is no longer possible to make a clear distinction. The skin color in the street scene can then differ from dark, negro to blond-haired and white Berbers.

It can be said that about 75% of the population feels Arab and 20-25% feels Berber, especially around the towns of Kabyli, Aures, M'Zab and Hoggar. There are four main Berber tribes, Kabyle, the largest group, and Shawiya, M'zabite and Tuaregs, each with their own dialect, culture and area of residence in Algeria.

The nomadic Tuaregs are the most independent of the Berber tribes. Tuareg comes from the word 'tarek', meaning 'those who left God' and was given to them by disappointed Muslim preachers who tried in vain to convert the Tuareg to Islam centuries ago. Tuaregs travel from southern Algeria to northern Nigeria and from western Libya, as far as Mali.

The remaining 1% of the population consists, among others, of a small group of pieds-noirs, descendants of the French colonists born in Algeria. In 1926 about 15% of the population were pied-noirs, in 1959 there were more than one million pied-noirs in Algeria, about 10% of the population. In Algiers, 30% of the population were pied-noirs and in Oran a large proportion of the population was pied-noirs. In the war of independence, the pied-noirs naturally sided with the French, and this came to cost them dear after independence. More than 900,000 pied-noirs fled to France, where they were not very warmly welcomed and were struggling to make a living. Many subsequently emigrated to countries in North and South America or to French overseas territories such as New Caledonia. Of the 100,000 pied-noirs that remained in Algeria, only a few thousand are now left.

The 'harkis', Algerian Muslims who sided with the French in the war of independence, fared much worse, thousands were denied visas to France and murdered by Front Liberal Nacional (FLN) troops.

Harki fought with the French in the War of Independence Harki fought with the French in the War of Independence Photo: Poussin Jean CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Almost 41 million people live in Algeria (2017), placing Algeria in 33rd place on the list of the countries with the most inhabitants. The population density is low and amounts to about 15 inhabitants per km2. However, the differences in Algeria are large: the most remote areas in the Sahara have a population density of 0.1 inhabitants per km2, the cities on the coast have a population density of 200-400 inhabitants per km2, the capital Algiers is even very densely populated with more than 6000 inhabitants per km2. Only 12% of Algeria is inhabited.

Approx. 90% of the total population of Algeria lives in the northern coastal region, the other 10% lives in the oases in the Sahara. About 60% of the Algerian population lives in cities, and that number is growing. In addition to the metropolis Algiers, Annaba, Batna, Biskra, Blida, Constantine, Djelfa, Oran, Sétif, Sidi Bel Abbès and Tébessa are cities with more than 200,000 inhabitants. The largest city in the Sahara is the southern Tamanrasset with about 100,000 inhabitants.

Street scene in the Sahara city of TamanrassetStreet scene in the Sahara city of Tamanrasset, AlgeriaPhoto: W Robrecht CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Most Europeans disappeared after independence, as did the group of Jews. More than 1 million Algerians live in France.

Natural population growth was 1.7% in 2017
Birth rate per 1000 inhabitants was 22.2 in 2017
Starfigure per 1000 inhabitants in 2017 was 4.3
The average life expectancy in 2017 was 77 years;men 75.6 years and women 78.4 years

Tribes in AlgeriaTribes in AlgeriaPhoto: Public domain

Rai and Chaabi

Rai music, now popular among Algerian and Moroccan youth, was first heard in the second half of the 20th century as a modern version of 'chaabi', traditional late 19th century Western music. A typical chaabi song consists of a sombre, sad text, accompanied by an orchestra of about 12 people with violins, mandolins and percussion instruments. The songs often carry a very strong moral message.

Rai was born in the northwestern city of Oran after independence and the lyrics usually contain a humorous take on a particular event. The singers, first only men and later also women, were initially accompanied by musicians with traditional instruments such as gasba (reed flute), darboeka (vase drum), bedir (frame drum) and karkabou (metal clappers), later gradually replaced by trumpet, violin, accordion, keyboard and electric guitar. Improvisation was an important characteristic of rai, from the sixties of the last century, partly under the influence of European pop music, different rai styles emerged, including various rai rock bands. Young people also sang more and more lyrics about love in all its aspects. Islamic fundamentalists banned rai in the nineties of the last century during the religious-political turmoil. This even culminated in the murder of some rai singers, including the well-known Cheb Hasni in 1994.

One of the most important rai producers was Rachid Baba Ahmed (1946-1995), also murdered in 1995 during the civil war by Islamic fundamentalists, who felt that Rai was far too concerned with sexuality, alcohol and more generally "depraved" Western culture. In the west, Cheb Mami is one of the most famous rai singers due to his 2000 duet with Sting in the song 'Desert rose'.

Cheb Mami, Algerian singer and rai- musician Cheb Mami, Algerian singer and rai- musicianPhoto: Saber68 in the public domain


The Tuareg are a Berber tribe living in the Sahara and the Sahel, particularly in the countries of Algeria, Burkina Faso, Libya, Mali and Niger. The Tuareg are from the Fezzan region of Libya and have migrated south over the centuries, but are now more often tied to one place than before. This situation has not been going on very long, their traditional camel nomadism is not long ago and urban Tuareg are a fairly new phenomenon. At the beginning of the 19th century, the Tuaregs resisted the French invasion of their area, but by the beginning of the 20th century they were definitively defeated and assimilated into the French sphere of influence. The fiercest resistance was fought in Southern Algeria, including by the famous Moussa Ag Amastan.

Moussa ag Amastane arrives in Paris for peace talks with the French Moussa ag Amastane arrives in Paris for peace talks with the French Photo: Public domain

The Tuareg are made up of different tribes and clans, and the main groups in Algeria are the Kel Ahaggar of the Tassili du Haggar and the Kel Ajjer of the region around Djanet in southeastern Algeria. In recent decades it has been fairly quiet between the Tuareg and the authorities in Algeria, in contrast to countries such as Mali and Niger. The most legendary Tuareg leader was an Algerian woman: Tin Hinan was a heroine and spiritual leader who founded a kingdom in the Hoggar Mountains. According to the Algerians, the Tuareg men cover their faces in shame that their greatest leader was a woman, but that is of course a myth. The truth is that the Tuaregs have a matriarchal society and do not have to wear a veil, unlike the men. The veil for men is called a 'tagel must' and is believed to ward off evil spirits, in addition to providing protection from the desert climate. Men start wearing a veil when they grow up and it often covers the entire face except for the eyes.

 Tuareg man from Algeria in traditional clothing Tuareg man from Algeria in traditional clothingPhoto: Garrondo CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Tuareg society is very hierarchical with a peerage and in earlier times slaves from black Africa. The merchants among the Tuareg had the highest prestige, higher than the farmers and nomads. The Tuareg are also called the 'blue men' after the color of their costume and turbans, although many more colors exist today. The Tuareg speak the Berber language Tamasheq, an Afro-Asiatic language with its own Berber script, Tifinagh. The Tuareg have been mainly Sunni Muslims from the 16th century onwards, but not very fanatical and combined with traditional religious practices. They are known for their fine art, jewelry, leather and their typical sword, the 'takoba'. It is estimated that there are about 25,000 Tuareg in Algeria, mainly in the Hoggar.

Territory of TuaregsTerritory of TuaregsPhoto: Mark Dingemanse CC 2.5 Generic no changes made


Arabic is the official language of Algeria and Berber has the status of a national language. Standard Arabic, spoken and written in the media and by the government, is very different from Algerian Arabic, which a large part of the population speaks in daily life. A number of other Arabic dialects are spoken in the Sahara regions. Algerian Arabic belongs to the group of Arabic dialects known as the Western (Maghreb) dialects, which also include Tunisian and Moroccan Arabic. There is no official writing system of Algerian Arabic. The official name of the Democratic People's Republic of Algeria in Arabic is al-Gumhuriyya al-Gaza'iriyya ad-Dimuqratiyya as-Sa'biyya.

Different variants of Berber are also spoken, of which the Kabyle is the most common. French is still taught in school and spoken by many Algerians, especially in the cities.

Before the Arab invasion, Berber was spoken in some form in Algeria. Arabic slowly but surely spread all over the country, but Berber remained the native language of most Algerians for a long time. Later, when France ruled Algeria, French became the official language, but as a form of protest, Arabic and Berber were still spoken in Algerians' living rooms.

French is still widely spoken. used as a kind of 'lingua franca', as it were a common means of communication between people of different mother tongues.

Berber (there are several Berber languages) or 'Tamazight' is a branch of the Afro-Asiatic language family and is spoken in nine other countries of North Africa in addition to Algeria, most of them in Morocco, Algeria and Libya. Berber can be divided into northern Berber, Tuareg and a number of other isolated languages, which are considerably influenced by Arabic. Berber speakers call themselves Imazighen, 'free people'.

Berber, spoken by about a third of the population in Algeria, is a national language in Algeria, but has no official status. The northern Berbers in Algeria and Morocco can be divided into four main languages:

-Tarifit, spoken by Riffians (Rif mountains) and mother tongue of most Imazighen.

-Tamazight of the Middle Atlas
-Tashelhiyt, around Marrakech in Morocco
-Kabylian (Taqbaylit), spoken in Northern Algeria, east of the capital Algiers, by approx. 8 million Kabyles.

College signage with top to bottom text in Arabic, Kabyle and French.College signage with top to bottom text in Arabic, Kabyle and FrenchPhoto: Vermondo CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Tamahaq is the only known northern Tuareg language still spoken in Algeria, Western Libya and Northern Niger. Northern Tamahaq is not very different from the southern Tuareg languages, only the sounds are quite different. There are three varieties of Tamahaq:

-Tahaggart, which is spoken in the region of the Ahaggar mountains in

Southern Algeria through the Kel Ahaggar tribal association

-Ajjer, spoken by the Kel Ajjer tribal alliance
-Ghat, spoken around Djanet in southeastern Algeria

Arabic keyboardArabic keyboardPhoto: Public domain

The Arabic script is written from right to left and consists of 28 consonants. Vowels are not written and this creates different Latin spellings for n-and-the same word. Arabic numerals are written from left to right.

Below are some words and expressions in Algerians Arabic, Kabylia Berbers and Tamahaq (Tuareg)

EnglishAlgerian ArabicKabyli BerbersTamahaq (Tuareg)
goodbyeebkaw ala khirnedjayawen lahnaar sarret
nolalakhatikala kala
pleasemem fedlekthey lanayekfadlik erha
what's your name?wasmek?ismim?minek isem ennek?
coffeekahwakahwael qahwa
one hundredm'yam'yatémédé


Ketchaoua Mosque in Algiers, AlgeriaKetchaoua Mosque in Algiers, AlgeriaPhoto: Trippiit CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Islam is the official state religion that is practiced by almost the entire population (99%). Less than 1% of the population are Christians, many of the Pentecostals, and Jews. At the height of the French occupation there were an estimated one million Catholics in Algeria. In the 1990s, Christians had a very difficult time in Algeria, with the low point in 1996, when six nuns, seven Trappist brothers and the bishop of Oran were murdered by Islamists. It is estimated that there are still some 10,000 Catholics, 20,000 Protestants, and some groups of other Christians living in Algeria. Most Christians are said to live in the province of Tizi Ouzou in the far north of Algeria. In 2011, the Protestant Church of Algeria was recognized by the authorities, but the church is still facing strong opposition from the same government. For example, pastors and theological teachers from abroad do not receive visas. In 2006, a law was even passed prohibiting foreigners from talking to Muslims about beliefs other than Islam.

The vast majority of Muslims adhere to the Sunnism of the Maliki law school. Maliki is one of the four jurisprudence schools, the 'Sunni madhabs'.

The Maliki and Ibadi law school occur in Algeria The Maliki and Ibadi law school occur in AlgeriaPhoto: Ghibar CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The two major schools of Islam are Shia Islam and Sunnism. This dichotomy arose almost immediately after the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632 AD. and is about the succession of Mohammed. Sunnis believe that Muhammad had not appointed a successor and therefore made their own choice between Muhammad's two fathers-in-law, and the choice fell on Abu Bakr, the father of Muhammad's favorite wife Aishah. Shites think that Muhammad had indeed appointed a successor, namely Muhammad's husband daughter Fatima, and thus his son-in-law, Ali ibn Abi Talib. Ali was murdered and his followers demanded that his descendants succeed him. According to the Sunnis, anyone can become a leader of the Muslim world if he sees to the proper exercise and interpretation of the rules of Islam. Shias live mainly in Iran, southern Iraq, Kuwait and as a minority in countries such as India, Pakistan, Lebanon and a number of Gulf states, including the United Arab Emirates. Sunnis, about 85% of all Muslims anyway, live mainly in countries such as Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, and many countries in the Middle East.

The traditional heartland of northern Central Sahara is the Berber desert town of Ghardaïa in the M'Zab Valley. The city was founded in the 11th century by Kharijite Muslims and is now in the middle of an area where Ibadism, a movement within Islam, is strongly represented among the Mozabites, a Berber people. Ibadism originated from Kharijitism in the 7th-9th century, although the Ibadists do not consider themselves to be Kharijites in any way. According to the Ibadites, faith should not be (mis) used to wage war and should adapt to the prevailing cultural, historical and scientific circumstances, and simplicity comes first. The Ibadites also believe that the Quran was created by God during creation and has not always been with God and is therefore the uncreated word of God.

Mosque in M'Zab, AlgeriaMosque in M'Zab, AlgeriaPhoto: PhR61 CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Islam is based on five 'pillars', which should give structure to the daily life of Muslims. The first pillar (shahadah) is the Islamic testimony 'there is no God but Allah and Muhammad is his prophet'. The second pillar (salat) is the duty to pray five times a day in the direction of Mecca. The third pillar (zakat) is the giving of alms, in the United Arab Emirates 10% of the assets are taxed. The fourth pillar (saum) is the month of fasting Ramadan, during which no eating or drinking is allowed between sunrise and sunset. The fifth pillar (hajj) is the pilgrimage to Mecca, which must be accomplished at least once in the life of a Muslim.

Five Pillars of IslamFive Pillars of IslamPhoto: Xxedvxx CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Algeria only has a very small Jewish community, which does not have an easy time in the almost 100 percent Muslim country. For example, there are currently no places of worship, synagogues, in Algeria. According to the current Minister of Religious Affairs, these were closed in the nineties of the twentieth century for security reasons. But in the same interview in July 2014, he reported that the Jewish community is fully accepted in Algerian society and that a number of synagogues were being considered. Whether and when that will happen, however, remains to be seen.

The recent history of the Jews in Algeria was determined by two dramatic events in the early 1960s during the war of liberation that directly affected the Jews. ended up in the French camp. In December 1961, the Great Synagogue in Algiers was set on fire and looted, and in June 1961 the famous Jewish musician and a symbol of Arab Jewish culture, Sheikh Raymond Leyris, was murdered.

At that moment it became clear to the approximately 130,000 Jews that there were really only two choices: the suitcase or the coffin. The first option was of course en masse and by the time of Algeria's independence on July 3, 1962, most of the Jews had left for France and only a few thousand Jews remained in Algeria. During and after the civil war it became increasingly unsafe for Jews in Algeria and almost all of them left for Israel in particular. The Islamists literally proclaimed that the Jews would be hunted down.

Abdallah ibn Salam mosque, formerly the synagogue of Oran Abdallah ibn Salam mosque, formerly the synagogue of OranPhoto: DZ-WahranUser CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

In 2011, Algerian President Boutaflika gave the go-ahead for Africa's largest mosque. The great mosque Djamaa El-Djazair will cost more than 1 billion euros and will be built on an area of more than 20 ha of land. The minaret of the mosque will be about 300 meters high and is higher than the Hassan II mosque in Casablanca, Morocco. The giant mosque is expected to be ready by the end of 2015.

Saint Augustine

Theologian, philosopher and church father Aurelius Augustinus, of Berber descent, also known as Augustine of Hippo or Saint Augustine, was born in 354 in Thagaste, which is now Souk-Ahras in the far northeast of Algeria. As Bishop of Hippo Regius, now Annaba, he died in 430. Augustine is one of the most important figures of Western Christianity and a Catholic and Anglican saint. To the Protestants, he is one of the theological fathers of the Reformation. At the age of 17 he was sent by his parents, his mother was the devout Saint Monica of Hippo, to Carthage to study philosophy and rhetoric.

Saint Augustine together with his mother, Saint Monica of Hippo (ca. 333-387)Saint Augustine together with his mother, Saint Monica of Hippo (ca. 333-387)Photo: Johann Dréo CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

At that time he was not yet a Christian, which only happened after he left for Rome in 383 to continue his studies. In 384 he was appointed oratory at the court of Milan, in 386 he converted to Christianity and in 387 he was baptized by Ambrose, the bishop of Milan. He was ordained a priest against his will in 391 and auxiliary bishop of Hippo Regius in 395. From 396 until his death in 430 he was bishop of Hippo Regius.

His writings and ideas had a profound influence on Western philosophy and theology. He also said that the Bible should not be interpreted literally if there was scientific evidence to the contrary. He has many publications to his name and in 2008 six more sermons of his were found in a manuscript from the 12th century in the university library of Erfurt. Before that time he had a very nuanced image of the Jews and stamped them as pioneers of Christianity. Theologians such as Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin are strongly influenced by the works of Augustine, and philosophers such as Immanuael Kant, Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche elaborated on his ideas about the human will. The Roman Catholic Church celebrates its feast day on August 28, the Eastern Orthodox Church on June 15.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430)Augustine of Hippo (354-430)Photo: Public domain


State structure

Algeria is a presidential republic with a multi-party system, with the president being the head of state and the prime minister the head of government. The executive power is in the hands of the government and the legislative branch consists of the government and the two chambers of parliament, the First Chamber or Conseil de la Nation and the Second Chamber or Assemblée Populaire Nationale.

Algeria provinces overviewAlgeria provinces overviewPhoto: Golbez CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Although Algeria is currently a constitutional republic with a democratically elected parliament, there are the military and a number of powerful 'civilians', the so-called 'décideurs', which are still the main forces of power in the country. Algeria is divided into 48 provinces or 'wilayas', 553 districts or 'daïras' and 1,541 municipalities or 'baladiyahs'. The name of the capital of each tier of government is also the name of the administrative unit.

By constitution, all provinces have far-reaching powers in the field of economics and diplomacy and are governed by an Assembly Populaire Wilayale (APW). A province is headed by a governor or 'wali' appointed by the president of Algeria, who is responsible for implementing the decisions of the parliament. The Speaker of Parliament is elected by the Members of Parliament, who are elected by Algerians through elections.

The capital of a district is called the district seat or 'chef-lieu de daïra'. Each district is divided into a number of municipalities. The capital Algiers is the only city in Algeria divided into districts and municipalities. A district is governed by a district head or chef-lieu de daïraa elected by the president of Algeria. In November 1996, the constitution was revised by referendum. This revision placed a lot of power in the hands of the president (head of state). His responsibilities include defense, foreign policy, the appointment or removal of the prime minister, the appointment of the governor of the National Bank and the judges. The president is elected for a term of five years and can be re-elected again and again since a change in the constitution in 2008.

Legislative power rests with the parliament, which consists of two chambers, namely the Assemblée Popular National or 'al-Majlis al-Sha'abi al-Watani' (Lower House) with 462 members and the Conseil de la Nation or 'al-Majlis al-Umma' (Senate) with 144 seats. The members of parliament of the Assembly are elected for five years by direct elections. One-third of the Council is appointed by the President and two-thirds are indirectly elected from the councils of municipalities and Wilaya’ s. The members of the Council are elected for six years.

Algeria ParliamentAlgeria ParliamentPhoto: Magherrabia CC 2.0 Generic no changes made


Algeria Coat of ArmsAlgeria Coat of ArmsPhoto: Jackaranga CC 4.0 International no changes made

Algeria has a multi-party system with many political parties, for example in 2012 44 parties participated in the parliamentary elections. With so many parties, all of which must be approved by the Home Secretary, it is virtually impossible for any political party to gain a majority in parliament, and coalition governments are inevitable. Under the 1996 constitution, no parties may participate in parliamentary elections based on 'religious, linguistic, racial, sexual or regional' differences.

The parliamentary elections of May 30, 2002 changed the composition of the Assemblée Populaire Nationale. The FLN won 199 of the 385 seats, a gain of 128 seats. The RND, which is a refuge for ex-FLNers who do not want any concessions to the religious fundamentalists and Berbers, plummeted to 48 seats, a loss of 107 seats. Islamist parties gained a small seat but their representation in the parlement remained small. The FFS and RCD who have their electoral base in troubled Kabylia boycott the elections. Voter turnout (42%) was a low point.

FLN leader Ali Benflis entered his second term as prime minister after the 2002 elections. Backed by much of the FLN, he made an attempt in early 2003 to eliminate Bouteflika as a presidential candidate. However, a decision to that effect by an FLN congress was declared illegal by a court and in May 2003 Benflis was fired by Bouteflika. RND leader Ahmed Ouyahia took over the leadership of the government.

In contrast to 1999, when Bouteflika's rival candidates withdrew at the last minute, the election was open to choice. The battle was between six candidates: the incumbent president Bouteflika and Ali Benflis, both of the (FLN), Abdallah Djaballah, leader of the fundamentalist MRN-Islah party, who represents the voice of the Islamist opposition in parliament, Said Sadi, leader of the (RCD), Louisa Hanoune, leader of the Trotskyist Parti des Travalleurs (PT) and Ali Fawzi Rebaine, founder of the (AHD 54) a nationalist party. Relevant to the climate in which the elections took place is that Abassi Madani and Ali Benhadj, respectively president and vice-president of the currently banned FIS in 1991, were released in July 2003 after twelve years in prison.

Incumbent President Bouteflika was re-elected President of Algeria in the first round on April 8, 2004 with 84.99% of the vote. The first five years of Bouteflika's presidency have been dominated by attempts at national reconciliation ( ‘concorde civile’ ) and a reorientation of Algeria on Europe. There was an amnesty for Islamist militants and an association agreement with the EU. Since the spring of 2001, when riots in Kabylia outbreaks, the Berber issue is back on the political agenda. MP Ouhaiya, himself Berber, reached an agreement with local representatives in 2005, but the president did not want to go so far as to make Berber the official language. By decree of February 27, 2005, the president amended family law, which slightly improved the position of women. This decree was ratified by parliament on May 4, 2005.

The 462 seats in parliament were elected in 2012 by 42.9% of Algerians entitled to vote. The socialist Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) won the elections brilliantly with 220 seats, the moderate Islamists became the second party with 66 seats. As is so often the case, a fair poll was doubted.

Algerian views election poster for parliamentary elections 2012Algerian views election poster for parliamentary elections 2012Photo: Magharebia CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

For the current political situation see the chapter history.


After years of negative growth, partly as a result of the crippling effect of violence on daily life, prospects improved from 1994. An agreement in 1994 with the IMF and the World Bank brought together a program of loans and a structural adjustment program, to which the European Union has also contributed. Furthermore, a debt settlement was introduced with the Club of Paris which significantly eased the budgetary pressure of debt service. The transition to a market economy has worsened the labor market. Many unemployed people seek refuge in the informal ‘black’ economy.

Algeria infrastructure improvementAlgeria infrastructure improvementPhoto: Ainturk in the public domain

The current government program emphasizes the need for economic growth and integration into the world economy, which must be achieved by encouraging (foreign) investment and implementing a privatization and liberalization program. To this end, negotiations with a view to accession to the WTO were intensified, a tariff dismantling program was initiated and an association agreement concluded with the European Union. After the upheaval, long-term economic challenges include diversification of the economy, strengthening the private sector, attracting foreign investment and ensuring adequate jobs for younger Algerians. The gross domestic product per capita of the Algerian population was $15,000 in 2017. All economic sectors grew during that period with the exception of the oil and natural gas sector, where production has decreased since 2006. Infrastructure development and agriculture, two major segments of the non-oil economy, were major contributors to GDP growth. Inflation, which rose to almost 9% in 2012 due to an expansionary fiscal policy, has since fallen to 5.5% in 2017
The rapid decline in oil production and exports has resulted in a reduction in the budget surplus and if it continues, will have serious budgetary implications. Despite this, the economy remains highly dependent on the oil sector, which still accounts for about a third of gross domestic product and 98% of exports. It is remarkable that domestic energy consumption is increasing while oil production is decreasing.

Algeria Oil BalanceAlgeria Oil BalancePhoto: Raminagrobis CC 4.0 International no changes made

The entire oil and natural gas scene in Algeria has been nationalized for decades and has been transferred to the multinational SONATRACH (SociétéNationale pour la Recherche, la Production, le Transport, la Transformation, et la Commercialization des Hydrocarbures spa). Sonatrach is the largest company in Algeria and Africa with 2010 sales of more than $ 56 billion and is one of the top 15 largest oil and gas companies in the world. SONATRACH also operates concessions in Yemen, Libya, Mauritania, Peru and Venezuela and is also active in petrochemicals and seawater desalination.

Dates AlgeriaDates AlgeriaPhoto: ORGANIChouse CC 4.0 International no changes made

Besides oil and natural gas, dates are Algeria's main export product, a bad sign that the non-oil related parts of the economy are not very much. Foods are also widely imported, and many Algerians are largely dependent on money sent to Algeria by relatives abroad.

Only one fifth of the land area is used for agriculture, especially pastureland and only 3% as arable land. Northwest Algeria has the best agricultural land, especially around the town of Tlemcen, which made it the capital of the Maghreb in the 14th century. This region is also known for its vineyards, and this is where the French started producing wines. The best wines were produced around Tlemcen and south of Oran.

Harvest with a combined harvester in Algeria Harvest with a combined harvester in AlgeriaPhoto: Magharebia CC 2.0 Generic no changes made

Since the end of World War II, Algeria has started to search systematically and with great success for mineral resources. Iron ore was found at Tindouf (Southwest Algeria) and Oueza (Northeast Algeria), coals in the vicinity of Béchar (Western Algeria). Large deposits of phosphate are located at Tebessa (Northeast Algeria), near the border with Tunisia. Zinc, lead and manganese were also found in the Ahaggar Mountains, uranium, platinum, gold and tungsten.

Algeria's troubled economic state has made the informal economy increasingly important to the country and its inhabitants. It is estimated that tens of percent of the working population is already employed in the informal economy, independently or in small businesses. A commonly used method of trading outside the regular market is 'trabendo', where trade is smuggled from other countries, often France, to Algeria and traded there on the black market.

Bunch of grapes AlgeriaBunch of grapes AlgeriaPhoto: Galxyz27 CC 4.0 International no changes made

Surprising for an Islamic country is the fact that Algeria (has) produced some excellent wines. In fact, Algeria is one of the oldest wine-producing countries in the world and was introduced by the Berbers even before the arrival of the Romans. Phoenicians, Greeks and Romans increased the acreage further and under Spanish and Turkish rule more grape varieties were imported. Under the French, the winery grew into an economically valuable activity. In 1938 there was an area of vineyards of 400,000 ha producing 1.5 billion liters of wine annually and Algeria was one of the largest wine exporters in the world at the time.

Algeria wine regionsAlgeria wine regionsPhoto: Agne 27 at English language wikipedia CCA 3.0 Unported no changes made

Of this large area, only about 70,000 hectares are now left, almost exclusively in the fertile coastline on the Mediterranean Sea. The main wine regions, even today, are Ain-Bessem-Bouira, Coteaux du Zaccar, Médéa, Dahra, Monts du Tessala, Coteaux de Tlemcen and Coteaux de Mascara. After independence, production collapsed and not much was left in the civil war. Now attempts are being made to revive viticulture, not only with state-controlled companies, but also by private winegrowers. The most appreciated and popular wine was the Coteaux de Mascara.

Holidays and Sightseeing

As the largest country on the Mediterranean and the largest country in Africa, Algeria still has large parts of the country that are virtually undiscovered, both in the spectacular coastal region and in the Sahara. Here one can still experience the traditional culture of different peoples. Algeria also has the most beautiful Roman sites outside Europe, the Sahara, therapeutic heat sources, beautiful folk art and opportunities for mountain climbing.

Sahara desert AlgeriaSahara desert AlgeriaPhoto: Fiontain CC 4.0 International no changes made

The unrest in the country and the inadequate tourism infrastructure have been negative for the development of tourism. Yet the country's basic infrastructure is such that tourism can become a more important part of the economy than it is today. Algeria has about 130 airports, of which more than 50 international, railways with a length of about 15,000 km and more than 2,000 stations, more than 70 ports and about 200,000 km of paved roads. Most tourists come from France and the neighboring country Tunisia.

Algiers AlgeriaAlgiers AlgeriaPhoto: Poudou 99 CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

The approx. 1000 km long coast has many extensive beaches, the capital Algiers has a nice mix of traditional and modern aspects, there are green hills and in the mountains you can even ski in winter. West of Algiers lies the Turko coast with the seaside resorts Oran and Tipasa. As a former colony of France, the European influences are still clearly noticeable, but Algeria also has several monuments and (inner) cities on the World Heritage List of UNESCO, such as Al Qal ' a of Beni Hammad, the ruins of the first capital of the Hammadids, the 'kasbah' of Algiers, Dj émila, the ruins of a Roman city, and Tassili n'Ajjer, a plateau with many prehistoric cave art, ca. 15,000 cave drawings and engravings, which are among the most important in the world. The images, taken between 7000-6000 BC, show the evolution of humans and animals in this part of the Sahara, which was still green and fertile at the time.

Algeria TimimounTimimoun AlgeriaPhoto: Michel-georges bernard CC 3.0 Unported no changes made

Timimoun is a beautiful example of an oasis town and In Salah is special because the town is split in two by a 'walking' sand dune. It is best to travel between large cities by plane or train, traveling on your own is strongly discouraged for the time being. In the cities it is advisable to use a taxi. The road network in the north is well developed, in the south large parts of the country are hardly accessible for the average tourist. Ajjer and information about the geology, plants and animals of the Sahara.

Click the menu button at the top left of the screen for more information


Agada, Birgit / Algerien : Kultur und Natur zwischen Mittelmeer und Sahara

BBC - Country Profiles 

Beker, Michel / Algerije
KIT Publishers/Oxfam Novib

CIA - World Factbook 

Elmar Landeninformatie

Ham, Anthony / Algeria
Lonely Planet

Kagda, Falaq / Algeria
Marshall Cavendish

Oakes, Jonathan / Algeria
Bradt Travel Guides

Last updated December 2021
Copyright: Team Landenweb