Algeria is located in northern Africa, it is the largest country in the continent covering an area of nearly 2,4 millions Km².
Our country is characterized by its outstanding and extraordinary
diversity of cultures thanks to our large history . To state the matter
differently :from north to south and from east to west ; our historical
and geographical diversities are what make our culture
varies (language , cloths , food).
Like any other country in any continent, traditions form a part of the Algerian identity.
Traditions strengthen societies. Algeria has 48 states different in terms of dialects, food, clothes and almost in everything. Algerians are united despite these
differences, the thing that makes Algeria so special; it is said: “unity in diversity is our specialty”. We cannot forget to mention that we do share some common traditions such as greeting neighbors, welcoming guests, helping each other through thick and thin, making Couscous in celebrations, exchanging food …
The table as a place to meet
In my town Mostaganem(a city located in northwest), family meetings are a special tradition that we are struggling to keep them up. For us, the best time for any family to meet is meal time especially dinner time. In the morning, we may not get up at the same time to share breakfast; at noontime, we may be busy studying or working. So dinner can get us around one table as one family. When it comes to my family, dinner is important for us to sit together ; it is a tradition. My parents would allow us to visit friends or family any when but meal time. I would not imagine myself sharing dinner with another family when mine is around one table. I used to complain a lot concerning this matter, now I do not because I understand the reason behind their rejection. Dinner time is family meeting time; it is not about –just- eating it is about sharing moments together. This tradition would give us the chance to meet after a long day full of work, stress, anxiety. When we get around one table, we do communicate: communication for family is what blood is for body. Thus, we talk, we tell stories, we tell jokes, we laugh, and we discuss problems and different issues.
From time to time, my parents use such meetings to help us express ourselves, exchange opinions, discuss ideas. They do take advantages of them to teach us values, how to listen and how to talk politely. Other times , we recall memories and we get to become more vivid , we recharge and feel warm . Sharing such agreeable moments with family strengthens our relationship making us feel that we are not alone nor left behind. This, also, creates that spiritual connections between family members.
Moreover, there is another table time for such meetings: dessert time. The latter takes place after dinner time but not immediately. Generally, this table contains nuts, Saharian tea, jus, fruits … so once more, we get around one table. This time is not for lectures nor discussing moralities. It is simply time for more fun and joy, usually, accompanied with funny programs or sketches.
Traditions tend to make families stronger creating the sense of safety and emotional support .Susan Lieberman says: “family traditions counter alienation and confusion. They help us define who we are; they provide something steady, reliable and safe in a confusing world.”
Healthy strong families results in healthy strong societies.
Culture is a deep concept, many people face difficulties when defining and explaining it. Culture does not cover the language and beliefs in isolation but it includes food, cloths, manners of behaving and all what can a city or a country has.
Gastronomy is regarded as an important and fundamental element in any culture. Simply, we cannot tackle cultural issues without mentioning food as part of it.
As already mentioned, the wide Algeria has traditions to be conserved; traditional food is part of Algerian identity, history and culture. The differences in the background is what makes the differences in our Algerian food.
Here are some famous Algerian traditional dishes:
1- Couscous : this national dish is prepared in all Algerian cities we call it Couscous or Taam. It is served in weddings , funerals and celebrations. Most of us prefer to have it as the main dish on
Friday lunch. It is composed of steamed semolina , vegetables , meat or chicken . Some eat it with a red sauce others with milk and sugar. In some cities like Djelfa ,the red sauce is sweetened.
2- Berkoukes: is another national dish
that every single family prepares. It is
known as Merdod as well. This dish is
prepared with pellet semolina- that are a
little bit bigger than those of Couscous-,
vegetables like carrots, and various spices. We usually prefer to make it very spicy.
3- Harira : the main dish in west / west north Algeria. It is a soup made of mixed
vegetables, a lot of spices, meat (can be replaced but chicken or lamb ) coriander ;however , the ingredients vary from one family to another .it is served everyday in Ramadan (the holly month ), in celebrations ,in daily meals accompanied with lemon .
4- Zfiti : originally from Boussaada . It is one of the very old traditional dishes in our country . Zfiti must be prepared in the Mehres (kind of pots made of wood). It is made of bread called ftir , tomato , garlic coriander ,capsicum , paper and lots of spices . In Boussaada , zfiti does not have a specific time to be eaten ; usually accompanied with milk since it is too spicy .
5- Griwech :this word means crunchy .
Griwech is a popular Algerian traditional
dessert made from dough , fried and decorated
with sesame . We serve it in religious celebrations
like El Aid, in parties and in other occasions.
Together ...Today,Tomorrow and Forever
Celebrations are just one of many manifestations that would express the cultural identity of countries. Our beloved country could taste the flavor of the different celebrations that are transmitted from one generation to another. Again, we are doing our best in order to conserve traditional festivals. For that reason, we –usually- do not miss such events. It is notable that all our celebrations are characterized by hospitality, helping, sharing, and enjoyment under the name of Algerian collective traditions.
“Thimchert” is a famous social event in a
city called Tizi Ouezo , it takes place every
year before religious occasions . So, the
heads of the Dachra meet to discuss the
whole process of thimchert . After that,
they inform people about the location and
the time. Those who want to give a charity, they are allowed; then, the heads collect the charities to buy cows. Cows would be slaughtered and cut into pieces, everyone from the Dachra takes a slice of the beef (it does not matter whether he/she donated or not). When they finish, they gather the rest of the beef so that women could cook it. Then, people would get together for the sake of sharing the meal as one community.
“El Waada” is another social celebration that is repeated every year. This event takes place in Mostaganem city; the word “waada” is derived from the word “Waad” which means promise. It is usually celebrated outside and could last for more than two days; so, people agree on a specific date and they start informing one another about it weeks before. When they prepare themselves, they gather in groups or families and go to the already planned place. There they could meet people that they have not seen a long time ago. Usually they have a specific place for women to cook. Sometimes they organize horse-shows to get entertained (al khayala).
Some take advantages of such events in order to make peace between those who are quarreled. So those who got informed and promised to attend they would not break the promise.
“Collective weddings” are, as well, social
traditional celebrations in the city of Ghardaia. In Ghardaia , people agree on making mass weddings every single year in order to help couples get married . They cost less than the individual ones. The heads of Achira arrange a meeting to fix a date and talk about some issues concerning these weddings; after that, the rest get informed . The place is already fixed, they have constructed it for those events and it is for free. Those who have the desire to give charities are free; but, they do help each other when planning: some bring food , others are In charge of decorations … the wedding gets started in the night with Quoran , after a while , an old man helps the grooms to wear the traditional cloths . they have special musical groups who chant in Mizabit .
“ Dar al Rahma” ,in English “the house of mercy” ;from the very first contact with the phrase , you could approximately get what is it about .
Dar al Rahma is a voluntary project that Algerians ,in almost all cities, organize every single year in Ramadan . it aims to provide al Iftar ( a meal to break the fast ) for people especially passersby , students or workers away from home ( still families can attend ). This project can be run by organizations, associations , clubs , families and neighbors .
I am a member in Aurora club at university , that club organized such an event last year 5th June ,2018. It was my first experience in being in charge of organizing such big project , it was given the name of : “The Biggest Collective Iftar in Laghwat ”. Preparations started before the fixed date , people came from different places some were students , pupils , workers (different ages) , to give a helping hand .
Our purpose was to join hands together and work . so , we were separated into groups , each one was responsible of a specific task : a group in charge of setting tables , another in charge of helping the cooks , others brought goods … despite hunger , tiredness , high temperature , pressure and stress we managed to finish at time .
We broke the fasting together even though the majority were strangers but al Iftar table joined us as one community .In my mind , the best part was praying together , that spectacle was majestic and awesome . After praying, people got around the tables to eat , and that was the second best part ; it was overwhelming to see Algerians sitting together sharing food , laughers , smiles , and talks. I could feel the harmony in the air , I could see the unity and I could recognize that all Algerians were and would be –forever- one family and help those who are in need or in troubles.
It was amazing how we were all so connected , for a while , we felt warm , safe , loved … we felt we are home .
We Algerians , we are still one unity despite all the threats form in and outside , traditions are helping us to keep in touch with our culture ; and thus , with our Muslim Algerian identity . Families are doing their best to keep transmitting traditions being those stories, beliefs, values, or celebrations. These celebrations are most of the time associated with love, union, hospitality. It is important to bear in mind that we, as Algerians, help each other whenever and wherever. We do not have to know each other or to be relatives or friends to help; but, we even join hands for strangers.