Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Algeria - About


We are onto our first African country, Algeria!

Algeria is Morocco's neighbor.  Around 90% of the population lives near the coast.  Away from the coast is the Sahara Desert which covers 80% of the country. That's a lot of sand.

Most Algerians are Sunni Muslim and the level of devoutness varies per region.  Some areas are very Westernized and in others, such as Ghardaia, women are required by law to wear the hijab.  Arabic is spoken by 82% of the population, but various Berber dialects are also spoken as is French.

Berbers were the original inhabitants of the country, but many other cultures have claimed this land.  The Phoenicians established ports as far back as 1,200 BC.  During Roman time, the Berber kingdom along the northern coast of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia was known as Numidia.  The Romans took Juba II, the heir to Numidia back to Roman to educate him and Romanize him before giving him Cleopatra's daughter, Selene, as his wife and setting him up as a king.  He made his capitol in modern day Cherchell, Algeria, but he called it Ceaseria after Cesar Augustus.  Selene encouraged Juba to support performing arts, scientific research and trade, thus Numidia flourished under their rule and became one of the wealthiest Roman Client Countries.

Later the Arabs concurred Algeria twice, once in the 7th century and later in the 11th century.  In 1510 Spain came and then the French took control in the 19th century.  In 1962 Algeria won it's independence.

Couscous is the primary starch in Algerian cooking.  Many people assume that it's a grain due to it's very small spherical shape, but it's actually a pasta.  Okay, maybe not most people.  Maybe just me.  It's so tiny!  How is it a pasta?  Well, I'm going to cook it and find out!

Algerian cuisine is a fusion of Berber, French, Spanish, Italian, Moorish, Arabian and Turkish due to
the fact that these cultures have all claimed this land at one point or another.  Common spices are cumin, caraway, marjoram, coriander and fennel.  Saffron, ginger, cinnamon and cloves are also popular.  Yup, I'm definitely seeing French, Arabic and Spanish in there given the spices for sure.  Apparently, baguettes are a popular hold over from the French occupation.

When invited to an Algerian's home you are suppose to bring pastries, fruit or flowers.  Tulips and roses are good flower options.  You should always take off your shoes when entering a home, including the mat around a fire if it's a desert camp.

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