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Algerian Traditions

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Algeria is a Northern African country. It borders the Mediterranean Sea to the north, Niger, and Mali to the south, Morocco, Mauritania, and Western Sahara to the west, Libya, and Tunisia to the east. Most of the country’s population is concentrated in the north, near the coast, while the rest spread across the country’s semi-arid and desert south. The currency used in Algeria is the Algerian Dinar (DZD). The main religion is Islam, which is practiced by the majority of the population. The flag consists of a green and white rectangle with a red stat and Red Crescent (Embassy of Algeria, n.d.)

With hot, dry summers and mild, wet winters along the coast, the climate is arid to semi-arid, and the high plateaus experience cool, drier winters with warmer summers (Commisceo Global Consulting Ltd). The Algerian culture is mostly based on Islam, though some isolated groups in the Sahara still practice the indigenous traditions. However, western culture is influencing the youth through western popular music and Hollywood films, steering them towards global mass culture instead of embracing the indigenous culture and art forms (Zaimeche & Chanderli, 2019).

Religion

About 99% of Algeria people are Muslims, while the remaining 1% consists of Christians and Jews. The Algerian culture has its root in Islam in that it runs the way of life of the Algerian people. Muslims have to pray five times a day: dawn, noon, afternoon, sunset, and evening. The local daily newspaper has the exact time for prayer. And since Friday is considered holy, all businesses and companies are closed. Some close on Thursdays, too, to make the weekend Thursday and Friday. The holy month of Ramadhan incurs some changes to the lifestyle of all Algerians. Muslims swift from dawn to dusk; they don’t drink, feed, chew gum, or smoke cigarettes and can only work six hours a day. Foreigners living in the country aren’t allowed to smoke, eat, chew gum, or drink in public (Commisceo Global Consulting Ltd, 2020).

There are different orientations of the Islamic religion. The main ones are the Sunni, Shia, and Sufism. Sunni is more dominant, with 80% of the Muslims following it, followed by Shia with 15% of the Muslims and lastly, Sufism with 5% of Muslims. These three are the main doctrines in Islam, but each orientation has other sub-sects. The Sunni has four branches, namely Hanafi, Shafi’i, Maliki, and Hanbali, while the Shia has many sub-sects like Ismailism, Zaidi, and Druze, among others (Bouherar, 2020).

Arts

The culture of Algeria in terms of arts expresses itself in music, literature, and cultural institutions. The music native to Algeria is raï, derived from the Arabic word ra’y, which means view or opinion. The music’s origin is the western part of Algeria and combines a variety of instrumentations with poetic lyrics that are simple. Both men and women sing the music. Khaled is one popular raï musician who has taken this music to the United States and Europe. However, he has been targeted by an Islamic extremist, together with another popular musician called Cheb Mami. Another style of music is Wahrani, which is the music of the Oran. It blends Arab-Andalusian traditional classical music with raï (Zaimeche & Chanderli, 2019).

Algeria has several important writers. Henri Krea’s works mirror his life in the two worlds brought about by being the child of an Algerian mother and French father. Some of the writers, like Albert Camus, who is a Nobel prize winner, and Jean Senac were French, even if the many years they spent in Algeria influenced their work. Jean Amrouche is the poet at the frontline of North African first-generation writers, while the father of modern Arabic literature is considered ʿAbd al-Hamid Benhadugah in Algeria. Mouloud Feraoun’s works reflect Amazigh life. The writers of contemporary life in Algeria include Rachid Boudjedra, Malek Haddad, Mourad Bourboune, Mohammed Dib, and Assia Djebar (Zaimeche & Chanderli, 2019).

The country’s major cultural institutions include museums, archives and libraries, most of them located in the capital, Algiers. The Office of Cultural Heritage manages the museums. The National Fine Arts Museum of Algiers is home to paintings, statues, and works of well-known European masters. At the same time, The National Museum of Antiquities exhibits roman and Islamic period’s artifacts. Bardo museum concentrates on ethnography and history. Other cultural institutions include Algerian Historical Society, the National Archives of Algeria, and the National Library (Zaimeche & Chanderli, 2019)

Politics, power, and authority

The current president of Algeria is H.E.M. Abdelmadjid Tebboune. The president runs the office for five years after being elected by secret, direct and universal suffrage. The parliament is bicameral and is known as The National People’s Assembly or The Council of the Nation (Embassy of Algeria, n.d.). The previous president, Bouteflika, had overseen amendments to the constitution to remove presidential term limits. He was able to rule until his fourth term. He won the elections with the majority vote of more than 81%, even though he rarely campaigned or governed in public due to a stroke. The results of the election raised eyebrows as to whether they were legit or doctored.

Bouteflika, in his fourth term, strengthened the presidency against the military elites by slowly side-lining The Department of Intelligence and Security (DRS) and then totally abolishing it in 2016. An agency later replaced it under the direct control of the presidency. In 2016, the presidential term limits were restored, among other amendments to the constitution. An announcement was made in February 2019, that Bouteflika would seek the presidency for the fifth time, despite the term limits and his declining health state. Protests erupted opposing this, with the support of 1000 judges and the military. Bouteflika dropped his bid but instead postponed the elections, and wanted to reshuffle the government and draft a new constitution. Protests went on demanding Bouteflika’s resignation with various sectors of Algerian society supporting it. He later stepped down on April 2.

Protests went on even after the resignation in demand for greater change, as the people left in charge still belonged to Bouteflika’s inner circle. Despite this, the elections held on December 12 included candidates belonging to the inner circle. The army made sure the elections took place with the participation of only 40% of the electorate. Abdelmadjid Tebboune, who had served in high positions in the government of Bouteflika, won, and he went ahead to appoint a general of the inner circle as the army chief of staff, namely, Said Chengriha (Zaimeche & Chanderli, 2019).

Language and ethnicity

A variety of languages exist in Algeria, namely Modern Standard Arabic, Classical Arabic, Algerian Arabic, English, French, and Berber (Tamazight). Modern Standard Arabic is the official language, with addition to Tamazight. Modern Standard Arabic marks the Arabic identity of the country, originating from years of Arabization of Algeria. From the third year of primary school, French gets taught as the second language and English as a foreign language from the first year of middle school. The various local dialects get used in informal situations (Mostari, 2008). Almost all Algerians originate from the Berber heritage. Although, only a few Berber live in the mountains of Kabyle. They are also Muslims by religion but follow the Berber traditions. The rest identify with Arab identity and traditions (Commisceo Global Consulting Ltd, 2020).

Customs

The Arabic heritage and Islamic religion influence most of the customs of Algeria. The Salafists of the Sunni orientation dress in a long white robe (Thobe or Khamis), which goes with trousers reaching just above the ankle and a beard. The brotherhoods are politically based and claim to be redeeming the people from oppression/ they have formed many political parties and involve religion in politics, a recognized practice in society (Bouherar, 2020). The Muslim clergy has also opposed the liberation of women. The Algerian society expects women to submit to their husbands, the heads of the family. Interactions daily only take place between members of the same gender. Parents arrange marriages as they are considered a family affair. This custom of arranged marriages is, however, declining as women take on economic and political roles. The women still wear veils in public; traditionally, it is inappropriate for unrelated men to see a woman. The scarf is worn more in urban areas since women have higher chances or meeting with non-relatives (Zaimeche & Chanderli, 2019).

Algerian dishes have influences from Turkish, Arab, French, and Amazigh culinary traditions. The traditional staple is couscous. There are Western meals like fast foods, but traditional agricultural products make up the menu in many households. They include poultry, mutton, lamb, figs, almonds, dates, and local honey. Turkish coffee and mint tea are the main beverage (Zaimeche & Chanderli, 2019). The holidays include civil, religious, and national holidays. The public holidays include Labor Day on May 1 and New Year’s Day January 1, while the national holidays include Independence Day on July 5 and National Day on November 1. the religious holidays include Aïd-El-Adha, Awwal Muharram, El Mawlid en-Nabawi, Aïd-El-Fitr, and Ashura. The traditional clothing consists of the Karakou, the Blousa, the Djeba Fergani, with differences in embroidery details and lace, velvet and cotton percentages, and place of origin (Embassy of Algeria, n.d.).

Norms

The society holds the family in high regard, and the individual is inferior to it. The high cases of nepotism and honor with the latter relating to the family’s good name demonstrate this culture. An individual’s action can bring the family honor or shame. Thus, an individual’s behavior is a family responsibility. Rejecting a request, criticizing others, insulting them, or placing them in uncomfortable situations can make one lose honor. Greetings entail lengthy processes where one is obligated to inquire about the well-being of the other person’s family, work, weather, and the like. People shake hands, and friends and family may kiss the cheek. Prolonged eye contact with women is discouraged and asking personal questions. People dine sitting on low couches or mats on the floor and eat by hand (Commisceo Global Consulting Ltd, 2020).

Conclusion

The Algerian tradition has been influenced by the Arabic and French who arrived in the country way before independence. The way of life is mostly Islamic in terms of the dress code, cuisine, etiquette, and customs since the majority of the population are Muslims. The western way of life is slowly influencing the youth with western pop music and Hollywood films, making changes to the dress code, cuisine, and emancipation of women. However, the majority of the population still upholds Islamic and Berber tradition.

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