Appears in

Oxford Companion to Food

Oxford Companion to Food

By Alan Davidson

Published 2014

  • About

Algeria is a Muslim country and, in terms of area, is the second largest political unit in Africa and the Middle East, although by far the greater part of its area consists of Sahara desert. There are small numbers of nomads (see bedouin food) and settlements at some oases, but most of the 25 million inhabitants of the country live on the fertile coastal strip, called the Tell, which is bounded to the north by the Mediterranean and to the south by the Plateau which marks the beginning of the Atlas Mountains; and most of the rest on the Plateau, whose different climate makes it suitable for sheep farming and the cultivation of cereals. Although mainly Arab, the indigenous Berbers are estimated to make up 20 per cent of the population. The Kabyles are the largest Berber group. Their Amazigh tongue is an official language of the republic. Original Berber cuisine was most likely no more than subsistence, but their later cookery styles as they absorbed Arabic influence constitute an important element in the national repertoire (see Zedek, n.d.; Wright, 1999; and under couscous and morocco).