Algeria is a country in northern Africa that borders the Mediterranean sea. Algeria is nearly the size of Texas, however, the majority of the country is inhabitable because of its harsh desert climate. Archaeological excavations indicate that primitive humans inhabited Algeria as early as 700,000 years ago. The Berbers inhabited Algeria in about 10,000 B.C., a settlement that lasted until about 1000 B.C. when the Carthaginans took over. Power exchanged hands several times until the Ottoman Empire took hold in 1517. The Ottomans established Algeria as the headquarters for the Berbery Pirates.
The French seized on regional fears of the pirates and took over the country in 1830. In the 1900's Algerian independence movements began to build and escalated to a full scale war in 1955. On July 5, 1962 the country gained independence and became a parliamentary republic. Algerians were unified in their quest for independence, but since have become divided on how the country should run. There was a military coup in 1968 and several riots and other forms of civil unrest have ensued. Elections have taken place in recent years that show promise for easing tension between clashing factions.
Arabic is the official language of Algeria. French is the second language of many of the most educated Algerians. There are areas of Algeria where different dialects of Berber are also spoken.
Algeria has been host to many cultures and this is reflected in their modern cuisine. French, Italian, Berber, Arab and Turkish style cooking can all be found in most restaurants. Fancier restaurants serve mostly French and Italian food, but rarely can dishes escape an Algerian influence. The food ranges from mild to very spicy, cous cous, chick peas and thick stews are a staple of Algerian cuisine. A refreshing golden-colored tea and a sweet strong coffee are popular drinks served with meals and as part of social activities.