Updated: Oct 14, 2021
About the interviewee
Feraoun Sarah is 21 years old Algerian Automation engineering student.
She is an art, science, and cooking enthusiast.
1. Tell us a little bit about how Muslims in Algeria prepare for Ramadan? Is there anything they do specifically before the first day of Ramadan?
Algerians welcome Ramadan like an old friend! Weeks before Ramadan, Algerians start deep cleaning the house some even repaint the walls, they buy new dishes, new kitchen wares basically new everything (if they can afford it of course)! As my grandma says “Ramadan comes and with it comes a bliss” everyone is excited about Ramadan! In most neighborhoods and streets men gather to clean the mosques and replace the old praying carpets, women get QURAN and books for their kids to read and teach them about this holy month. Some shops start decorating with lights and “Ramadan Kareem” LED decorations, Ramadan Kareem is also written on most big billboards, buses, and posters.
2. How would you describe the overall Ramadan spirit in Algeria? Does it have a different feeling on the streets when you go out in Ramadan?
Ramadan is not like any other month in Algeria! Everyone is happy and ready to help. The poor are never forgotten in Algeria but in Ramadan special free restaurants open in every corner for the homeless, the travelers, or simply those living alone and can’t cook everyone is welcome to either eat or help (they are called “Diar Errahma”). If you walk the streets after Aaser all you can smell is the fresh home-baked bread, the spices, and the freshly fried Zalabia. The streets are usually very calm in early mornings and after Dhuhr prayer, after Aaser men go out for walks, some stay in the mosque and recite Quran and others prefer to play traditional games, usually after Aasr hours are the hardest so everyone is doing their own thing trying to pass time. What makes the Algerian streets special is the people. Algerians are very social and welcoming and even if they’ve just met you, they would probably invite you for iftar.
3. How does a typical iftar would look like?
Ramadan in Algeria has a special taste, either it’s the food or the activities. A typical iftar in Algeria consists of soup, it’s usually Shurba (main ingredients: vermicelli, tomatoes, chicken/meat), Harira (similar to Shurba but spicier), the main dish is usually greasy and there’s a vast variety of dishes, the salad mainly consists of lettuce, tomatoes, onions then you can add whatever ingredient you like. The appetizers are most famous especially the Bourek, it’s a thin dough in which you can put whatever ingredients you like then you roll it and fry or cook it in the oven. It’s the most famous food consumed in Ramadan. There’s also a side dish called Lhham Lahlo which is optional, it consists of dry fruit, meat (hence the name sweetmeat) cinnamon, and gravy. When it comes to drinks some buy drinks from shops like soda or juice or they can buy homemade juice called Sherbet or make it at home. It basically a lemon juice that’s very popular. Also, Hamoud Boualam is the most traditional soda and the one people buy the most during the holy month of Ramadan. Some Algerian women like to bake bread at home instead of buying it which adds another special flavor to iftar in Algeria.
4. How does a typical suhur (suhoor) would look like?
Usually, the youngest in the family wakes everyone for Suhoor. The most typical Algerian Suhur is couscous with dried grapes, sugar, and a thing we call Lebenwhich is fermented milk, fermentation gives it a special taste. There’s also Raïb which is like Leben but thicker, some prefer a salty Suhur like a soup or leftovers from iftar, others like some desserts with milk or coffee (especially coffee for men).
5. Is there any food or drink that is specifically consumed in Ramadan? Yes, please tell us about the deserts.
After iftar and tarawih prayer comes the sahra, some spend it with friends outside or with family, some prefer to stay home and watch TV shows together, either way, if you spend your sahra in Algeria you’ll be served mint tea (some Algerians prefer coffee) and desserts. There’s a large variety of desserts and most of them are extremely sweet. The most famous one is Kelb Eloz (heart of the almond). It’s mainly made with semolina and one almond is placed in the middle hence the name. It has varieties with different nuts. There’s also Zalabiya, it’s a fried dessert that has various shapes and colors and is also very popular. There’s also Ktayef, Baklava, Maqrout Khobz el bay, and others. These are all North African/Turkish desserts and are all very sweet. Less sweet desserts are mostly consumed during the Suhoor like jelly and brioche accompanied with milk or coffee. To sum it all, if you follow a strict diet Ramadan in Algeria is not very recommended, but if you want a joyride of tastes, then you are more than welcome.
6. How do people celebrate Eid al-Fitr?
A week before Eid al-Fitr, Algerians start the preparations. They welcome ‘Eid like an old friend, too! They buy new clothes, new furniture, toys for the kids, and they deep clean the house again and make a variety of cookies and sweets for guests and neighbors. They also do ZAKAT before the Eid day so it can be given to the ones who need it. On the day of Eid, all family goes to Salat al-Eid, after the imam ends the salat, everyone in the mosque exchange greetings and stories about Ramadan. Arriving home, they start the preparations for receiving guests. Guests are served sweets and coffee or juice they also receive gifts and sweets to take home. The kids receive money from their elders then go out to play with their new toys and brag about how much money they made!
The ‘Eid last two days after that people start fasting again for 6 days, which is called “Ayam el-Sabrin” which translates to the “days of those who are patient”. In some regions, on the morning of the first Eid day, men gift their women jewelry as a gratitude sign for their efforts during the holy month. The big family gathers for lunch on the first day of Eid, usually in the grandparents’ house and usually, the young cousins spend the night there talking and sharing stories.
7. What makes Algeria special in Ramadan? Tell us about any activities, festivals, bazaars, etc..
While daytime is mostly to buy/cook food and read Quran at home most Algerians prefer night-time to get out and do more activities. After iftar and sitting for a brief while with the family, men and women go to the mosque to join the tarawih prayer, some men prefer to go to mosques that have a nice Mojawid for that they may walk longer roads to reach the mosque. After prayers, families may go out for walks or go to parks and have fun in cultural festivals. Young men like to walk in boulevards or sit, sip mint tea and play dice or domino’s or cards. Women prefer to go shopping. In the last days of Ramadan, most Algerians shop for clothes to honor Eid El-Fitr and also for ingredients to make sweets since they are famous during the holiday.
8. What should travelers expect to experience if they visit Algeria in Ramadan?
A traveler coming to Algeria should preserve a lot of energy for the night-time because of the festivals. There are music festivals or activities for kids, I definitely recommend iftar in the fresh air with friends and taking long walks in boulevards.
9. If I was visiting Algeria in Ramadan, where would be the best place to have iftar?
The best place to have iftar in Algeria? Anywhere! Either you eat in hotels, restaurants, or free restaurants or even if a stranger invites you to his house! The experience is always nice.
For the full Algerian experience I recommend a hosting family, they will even make you dress in traditional clothes!
10. Anything else you want to share about Ramadan in Algeria?
What makes Ramadan special? You could say the food but every country has its food to brag about, what I like the most is how everyone wants to invite you to their iftar tables and how they are happy to have you. I also like it when people agree to do iftar outside by the beach or in a park or like the very long iftar table we had last year in a boulevard in Algiers. The hospitality in Ramadan in Algeria is just something else!
RAMADAN 2020 PROJECT: Fellow sisters and brothers around the world joined Halal Travel Experts to spread the joy and knowledge of Ramadan. To become a part of this exciting project, email us at email@example.com. It is just 10 simple questions but the answers go beyond the oceans.