Fast Facts

Population:
32,814,000
Capital:
Algiers; 3,060,000
Area:
2,381,741 square kilometers (919,595 square miles)
Language:
Arabic, French, Berber dialects
Religion:
Sunni Muslim
Currency:
Algerian dinar
Life Expectancy:
70
GDP per Capita:
U.S. $5,400
Literacy Percent:
70
Flag: Algeria
Map: Algeria

Algeria, in northwest Africa on the Mediterranean coast, is the second largest country in Africa after Sudan. The Sahara covers more than four-fifths of its territory, where the inhabitants are concentrated in oases surrounded by desert. More than 90 percent of Algerians live along the Mediterranean coastlands on only 12 percent of the country's land. The Atlas Mountains cross Algeria east to west along the Mediterranean coast, with the north-facing slopes receiving good winter rainfall; the southern slopes, southern ranges, and interior plateaus get little rain.

Since antiquity Algeria has enticed settlers—Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Turks—and, in the 19th century, French farmers. The French organized Algeria into departments and disenfranchised native Arabs and Berbers. In 1954 Algerians rebelled; the war that followed took a million lives before independence in 1962, and a million French colonists left. Socialist-style, military-dominated governments pinned their hopes on huge oil and natural gas reserves in the Algerian Sahara. But low petroleum prices, a high birthrate, and austere policies produced a dismal economic picture. Algerians demanded democratization, and many migrated to France.

Since 1991 Algerian politics have been dominated by violence between the military and Islamic militants. While the level of violence has died down, Algeria still experiences bombings and suicide attacks. The government is also challenged by unrest from the Berber-speaking minority in the mountainous northeast. A multibillion-dollar investment to build up the country's infrastructure is under way, and a government-sanctioned charter for peace and reconciliation has been implemented in the hopes of moving the country toward lasting stability.

ECONOMY

  • Industry: Petroleum, natural gas, light industries, mining
  • Agriculture: Wheat, barley, oats, grapes; sheep
  • Exports: Petroleum, natural gas, petroleum products

—Text From National Geographic Atlas of the World, Eighth Edition

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