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Algeria has the largest territory of all the countries of North Africa and Southwest Asia.
About 90 percent of this territory is covered by the Sahara desert. Because of this most of Algeria’s population 27 million live in the north near the Mediterranean coast. This region is called the Tell. The farming region of the Tell makes up Algeria’s “breadbasket”. Crops that are grown include wheat, barley, potatoes, tomatoes, citrus fruits, dates and figs. However Algeria still has to spend 20 percent of its money on food imports. Most air blown off the Mediterranean produces rain and rain- fed streams flow through the farmlands. Many Algerians are farmers or sheep herdsmen who graze their flocks on the mountain sides of the Atlas Mountains. The Mediterranean climate attracted many French farmers during the colonial period. They laid out vineyards and made wine one of Algeria’s major exports. The Atlas Mountain ranges have many mineral deposits, iron ore, phosphates, coal, zink, lead, copper, tungsten, natural gas and petroleum.
Algeria was annexed to France in 1830. France replaced the military rulers with a civilian administration in 1871. In the 1900’s France began to develop Algeria. Programs sponsored by the French influenced French citizens to move to their new colony. The French brought most of Algeria’s new found oil reserves and supplied more imports to Algeria then any other country. Many Algerians moved to France to work and advisors from France helped Algerians improve their farming techniques. The French also tried to update Algeria with their European culture in the areas of economics, education, industries, and government institutions.
In the late 1950’s a long and bitter battle for independence began. The French tried to put down the revolt but couldn’t. The rebels used guerrilla tactics to gain independence. The brutality of the French colonial forces and the fact that the French government could not find a political solution helped move world opinion against France. The French government was brought down in 1958 and the Algerians were allowed to choose their own government. They voted for their independence and established a republican government. The government is led by a powerful president and a legislature who are elected from one political party. The party supports socialism in which the government owns the nations’ means of production. [Blij, p.427]
The language is primarily Arabic, the rest of the population speaks various Berber dialects. Arabic is the second language for some, but many educated Algerians speak French as a second language. The people are mostly Arabs, Berbers, or mixed descent. The majority of the people are Muslims and since Islam prohibits the use of alcohol, the Muslim government ordered many of the vineyards to be uprooted. Some of the vineyards were later replanted with the understanding that Muslims would not drink the wine. So Algeria again became an important producer of wines.
The coastal capital, Algiers has a population of about 3 million and the leading port Oran, has a population of 1 million. Nearly 70 percent of all Algerians live in urban places.[ArabNet] The people work as merchants, professionals, or government employees. The Tell, which holds most of the country’s town and cities is also the main tourist attraction. The Saharan Atlas range has a string of oases at its foot. These serve as additional tourist attractions with exclusive hotels that cater to tourists.
Algeria has two major oil fields located in the Sahara. One is close to Libya and a pipeline carries oil through Tunisia to the coast for overseas shipment. The second is close to the port of Skikda on the Algerian coast. Together oil, natural gas, and refined oil products make up 95 percent of Algerian exports.[ArabNet]
At the present time, Algeria is undergoing its second bloody civil was in 40 years. Over 60,000 people have died in this latest conflict. The cause of the war is state and religion, can and how should they be kept separate? [OTN Political Islam p.1] The Islamic states believes in Islamic law with the Quran as its constitution. For awhile it looked like the Islamic Salvation Front had the widest support politically. But recently there has been so much violence that many people have become sick and tired of the whole thing.[OTN Political Islam, p.2] The military authorities have held two elections which have succeeded in bringing back some type of political process. Massive unemployment and a shortage of goods, housing and large scale corruption is hurting the social and economical development of Algeria.[OTN Political Islam p.2] Algeria is dependent on its oil exports to make its living. Because of the large number of Islamic guerrillas the army is unable to end the war. Even though powerful Islamic leaders who helped start the war have been released from prison an end to the war is not in sight.
ArabNet– Algeria Culture, Language. www.Arabnet.com
ArabNet–Algeria Overview. www.Arabnet.comBlij, Harm and Gerald Danzer, Roger Hart, and Dorthy Drummond. World Geography, Illinois:
Scott, Foresman Co., 1989.
OTN’s Political Islam World Guide: Algeria. www.com.Algeria.
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