Algeria is the largest country on the Mediterranean, and the second largest in Africa.  Although it has faced many challenges in the struggle to overcome the aftermath of its colonial past, it is emerging as a stable democracy and a leading military power in North Africa.

Algeria’s cultural landscape has seen influence from many civilizations, including the native Berbers, the Carthaginians, the Romans, and the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires.  The Umayyads brought Islam and the Arabic language to Algeria in the Middle Ages.  France waged a long, violent invasion in 1830 that would not be completed for several years, and had a profound impact on Algerian society.  The country became an integral part of the French colonial empire, and extensive French settlement led to the emergence of a class of Algerian-born Europeans, called pieds-noir; wealth and political power were concentrated among them, and the wide disparity in quality of life created long-lasting resentment among native Algerians.  This culminated in the War of Independence in 1954, one of history’s bloodiest decolonization wars, which ended with a popular vote definitively declaring Algerian sovereignty in 1962.

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The Algerian War left long scars on both countries, and Algeria faced many more problems during the ensuing years, including a civil war in the 1990s.  But the country has made much progress as well.  The literacy rate, under 10% during French occupation, is now at 70% as education is becoming increasingly widespread.  Tension between the Arab and Berber ethnic groups have eased with political recognition of and growing access to education in the Berber languages.  Women have excellent access to higher education, making up 60% of university students, and dominating the fields of law and medicine.  The country has also made inroads in democratization, and considerably eased restrictions on political parties.  Algeria has made significant reductions in its foreign debt, and efforts are underway to liberalize trade with the EU.

Algeria retains a negative net migration rate, but this has been slackening in recent years with increases in public safety, education, and health care.  Although the comforts of Western living are somewhat rare here, Algerians have developed a reputation for warmth and hospitality, and the country offers a great opportunity to experience Arab and Berber culture, as well as the relics of its rich history.  The larger cities, especially on the coast, have kept the cosmopolitan atmosphere of colonial days, and travelers will find several European-style restaurants and clubs.  There remain relatively few opportunities for foreigners to work or study in Algeria; however, with increasing openness to trade, the need for English teachers will likely increase considerably.

Standard Arabic is the official language of Algeria, but is used only in writing; conversely, the Algerian Arabic dialect is the most widely spoken language, but is not written.  Tamazight languages are spoken by most Berber tribes.  French is the most common second language, with a large percentage of fluent speakers and a vast media industry.  English, by contrast, is relatively uncommon, and mostly spoken by young people.

Links

Country Info:

National Geographic: Algeria Facts
Wikipedia: Algeria
CIA World Factbook Entry

Language:

Online Arabic language course
Learning Arabic Facebook page
Online French language course
Learning French Facebook page
Wikipedia: Arabic Language
Wikipedia: Algerian Arabic
Wikipedia: Berber Languages

Relocation Resources:

Embassy of Algeria in the US – Visa Information
Algeria at Wikitravel
CareerJet.com: Jobs in Algeria