The people of Algeria include both Arabs and Berbers (also known as the Amazigh), although intermarriage over the centuries has blurred many of the distinctions between the two groups. In certain areas, however, a distinct Berber culture has been preserved, including the Kabylie region around Algiers and the Aurés region in the northeast, and in the oases of the Sahara, where the people are known as Tuaregs.
Algerians have a strong sense of family unity and family honour. In traditional Arab Muslim families, men make all the major decisions; women are expected to stay at home and not take part in public life. Although the Berbers are also predominantly Muslim, Berber women have fewer restrictions on their activities. Tuareg women take part in public life alongside men.
In rural areas, parents, children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters may live under the same roof. Married couples have their own rooms and cook their meals separately. All members of the family help to raise the children and instill the values of the family. Today, in urban areas, married couples may move away from the extended family unit and live on their own. Most marriages are arranged. According to the Sharia (Muslim law), Muslim women may not marry non-Muslim men. An Islamic marriage is as much a contract between two families as a bond between two individuals. Representatives of the bride's family negotiate a marriage agreement with the groom's family. The contract establishes the terms of the union. Although women are expected to obey men, they may not be married against their wishes and may obtain a divorce if they are deserted or left without support. After her marriage, a woman's social status increases if she bears a son.
Algerian men traditionally wear a long hooded robe called
a jellaba. Many Arab women, especially older women, follow the Islamic
tradition and wear a veil (hijab) in public. The veil may cover only
the lower half of the face or the whole face, leaving only a slit for the eyes.
In the Souf region in eastern Algeria, women are so heavily veiled that only one
eye is visible. In the east, most women wear black, while in the central and
western areas, most women wear white. Berber women do not wear a veil. They
usually dress in long skirts, blouses and shawls with floral patterns.