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 Northern Algeria stretches along the
Mediterranean Sea. The country's narrow
Mediterranean region has a warm climate
and rich farmland. Almost all Algerians live
in this region. Algiers, the country's capital
and largest city, lies on the
Mediterranean. To the south, the sun-
scorched wastes of the Sahara cover more
than four-fifths of Algeria. Beneath the
surface of this desert area lie huge
deposits of natural gas and petroleum.
 Most Algerians are of mixed Arab and
Berber descent. However, the people
form two distinct cultural groups—
Arab and Berber. Each group has its
own customs and language. But
nearly all Algerians are Muslims—
that is, followers of Islam.
 Ancestry. Most of Algeria's people are of
mixed Arab and Berber ancestry. Berbers
lived in what is now Algeria at least 5,000
years ago. Arabs began to arrive from the
Arabian Peninsula during the A.D. 600's.
Through the years, so many Arabs and
Berbers intermarried that it is now difficult
to separate the groups by ancestry.
However, many Berbers in the country still
maintain their own language and culture.
Less than 1 percent of the people are of
European descent.
 For about 130 years, Algeria belonged to
France. In 1962, it gained independence
following a bloody revolution. Algerians
then formed a socialist government that
began a program of rapid industrial
development. The program has been
financed chiefly by income from Algeria's
government-owned natural gas and
petroleum industries. But industry has not
grown fast enough to eliminate poverty
and widespread unemployment.
 Way of life. Since Algeria gained its
independence from France in 1962, the
government has worked to rid the country
of French cultural influences. For example,
it requires that legal proceedings be in
Arabic rather than French. Arabic has also
replaced French as the language used to
teach the country's elementary and high
school students. Many Algerians have
called for stricter observance of Islamic
teachings, which regulate family and
community relationships and many other
aspects of daily life.
 Rural life. Rural Algerians typically
live in large family groups made up
of several generations. Most houses
are built of stone or concrete or of
sun-dried bricks made of mud and
straw. Most also have flat tile or tin
roofs. The majority of rural Algerians
make a living raising livestock or
farming small plots.
 City life. The architecture of Algeria's
larger cities reflects Islamic and European
influences. Mosques (Islamic houses of
worship) and open-air markets are
common. Older sections of the cities are
called casbahs. In these sections, shops
and houses are crowded along narrow
streets. Newer sections have broad
boulevards and tall office and apartment
 In Algeria's cities, many men work in
factories or offices. The typical
household consists of only a father
and mother and their children. City
people have much more contact with
Western ideas than do rural
Algerians. As a result, some city
dwellers follow Western customs.
 Since Algeria gained independence,
many poor rural people have moved
to cities to seek factory work. But
many of them have not been able to
find jobs. The migration and a severe
housing shortage have resulted in
the growth of large slums in many
Algerian cities.
 Clothing. Many Algerians, especially in
rural areas, wear traditional clothing. A
woman may wear a long, white cotton
outer garment called a haik. It covers the
head and the lower part of the face and
extends down as far as the feet.
Traditional clothing for men includes a
long, hooded cloak called a burnoose.
Many people in urban areas wear clothing
similar to that worn by North Americans
and Europeans.
 Foods made from such grains as
wheat and barley form the chief part
of the diet of most Algerians. The
national dish is couscous. It consists
of steamed wheat served with meat,
vegetables, and a souplike sauce.
Many city dwellers eat dishes similar
to those eaten by North Americans
and Europeans.
 Recreation. Soccer is the most
popular sport in Algeria. Many
Algerians enjoy playing the game or
watching soccer matches. A favorite
pastime in cities is going to motion
pictures. Algerians celebrate several
national holidays, including their
country's independence day on July
5. They also enjoy a number of
religious festivals.
 Religion. The Constitution of Algeria
declares Islam to be the country's
official religion. About 99 percent of
the people are Muslims, but they do
not all agree about the role that
Islam should play in the country's
political and social life.
 Education. More than half of all
Algerians aged 15 or older can read
and write. Algerian law requires all
children from 6 to 15 years old to
attend school. More than 90 percent
of all children attend elementary
school. However, only about a third
of them go on to high school. The
University of Algiers is the country's
largest university.

Algiers, the capital and largest city of

Algeria, is often called Algiers the
White because of its many white
buildings. The city has an excellent
harbor on the Mediterranean Sea.
Most Algerians live in cities in the
country's narrow Mediterranean
coastal region.