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Customs of Algeria

Marriage and Family

Marriage represents the linking not just of individuals, but of families. Consequently, parents are closely involved in decisions regarding marriage partners. Women generally marry in their early 20s, and men a few years later.

Traditionally it was normal for three or more generations, including grandparents, married sons and their wives, and unmarried children, to share the same home. Today, in urban areas in particular, the smaller nuclear family has become more common. Male and female roles are clearly defined. Mothers are expected to care for the children and household, while fathers are responsible for family income and discipline. Children are expected not to question the authority of their parents and to take care of them when they are elderly.


In cities at least, French-influenced cuisine exists alongside traditional Algerian cooking. The traditional staple is el taam (seksul in Berber and couscous in other parts of North Africa), a steamed semolina served with lamb or chicken and vegetables, often in the form of a stew. Observant Muslims do not eat pork or drink alcoholic beverages.

Although Algerians generally eat with utensils, some foods are eaten with the hand, especially dishes prepared with rich sauces, where bread is used as a scoop. Because the left hand is traditionally used for personal hygiene, only the right hand is used when eating without utensils.


In Algeria, Arab-style greetings are standard, although in cities such as Algiers they are blended with French traditions. Greetings are usually accompanied by a handshake, and frequently an embrace (between members of the same sex). Elders are greeted first. Strangers and acquaintances are addressed by title and family name, but friends and relatives use given names. Although many specific greetings are used for various situations, Mrahva yissouen ('Greetings to you') and Saha ('Health') are the most common Arabic greetings. Azul and Azul amiss tmuzrha ('Good morning' and 'Good morning son of [our] country') are Berber salutations used by the Kabyles. When parting, the Kabyles say Ar thim lee leeth ('See you again') or Arthlifath ('See you later').

There is a strong tradition of hospitality in Algeria. Family members and close friends may call on each other without warning, but others are expected to visit by prior arrangement only; an invitation for a stranger or acquaintance to visit a private home is considered an honor. A lengthy period of small talk will usually precede any business discussion. Personal questions and sensitive topics such as politics or religion are best avoided unless the host introduces them into the conversation. Although it is usually considered impolite for guests to refuse offers of refreshments, by leaving a little food on the plate they reassure the hosts that they have been cared for more than adequately. When invited for a meal it is normal to take a small gift, but not alcohol. It is considered improper to point with a finger and offensive to point the sole of one's foot at another person. Objects are passed using the right hand or both hands, but not the left hand alone.


Recreation is largely a family activity and often takes place in the home. However, people also enjoy going to the beach, having picnics, and watching films. Soccer is by far the most popular sport in Algeria.

Holidays and Celebrations

Muslim holy days vary in date from year to year according to the Islamic lunar calendar. National holidays include New Year’s Day (1 January), Labor Day (1 May), Revolution Day (19 June), Independence Day (5 July), and the Revolution Anniversary (1 November). The first of the three most important Islamic celebrations is El Aid Essgher, a three-day feast held at the end of the month of El Ramadan, usually in the spring. El Ramadan is the month in which El Qur’ an, the sacred text of Islam, was revealed to Muhammad. During this month, Muslims do not eat, drink, or smoke from sunrise to sunset. In the evenings, they eat and visit with family and friends. The second important Islamic holy day is El Eid Thamukrate, or Feast of the Sacrifice, which is held in conjunction with the pilgrimage to Mecca (Makkah) in June or July, and which commemorates not only the pilgrimage but also the willingness of Abraham to sacrifice his son. The third is the prophet Muhammad’s birthday, celebrated in September or October.

Source: Encarta Interactive World Atlas