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Social status

One: Population structure

In the late modern era, we can divide the Algerian inhabitants based on classes. Arguably, the Algerian society was composed of different origines, there were: the Turks, Algerians, Kouloughlis, the migrant Andalucians, Negroes, Jewish, and Europeans.

1–The Ottoman Turks:

They are on top of the social pyramid, and they represent the top of the hierarchy as they had the authority of the state between their hands like the Beys, Pashas, Aghas and the members of the office whose majority was composed of “Janissary” soldiers who were living in the forts and barracks of the city. This category was little, as “Haedo” in the 16th century estimated it at about 1600 houses belonging to the Ottoman Turks by birth, in addition to the Elches who were Ottomans by profession and Christians by blood and origins. They were composed of the majority of Reyes class, like Uluç Ali and  Hassan Agha  who were an effective power in the maritime Jihad as their number reached eight thousand males, and one thousand and two hundred females in 1649 AD.

Even though their origins and races were different in language, customs, geography, they all agreed on loyalty in Islam and serving Algeria. Moreover, their activity was one of the factors of the flourishing of social and economic life in the city, by spreading some customs and traditions about food and clothing in addition to architecture and music. They also helped in introducing the Hanafi school and Sufism sects. Thus, the Turks helped Algeria preserve its Islamic identity, and the features of its personality and legacy, and they culturally owe the Arabic, Persian and Byzantine civilizations. They also contributed in reinforcing the social relations between the Algerian society categories through the foundations of the Islamic Aqida.

2–The Kouloughlis category:

It came in the second position, and they were the borns of the intermarriages of the Janissary soldiers and the Reyes with Algerian women. This category aspired to give birth, gain the language language and family affiliation in order to move to the first position in society.

This category emerged for the first time in the cities where there were Ottoman garrisons particularly in Algiers, Constantine, Tlemcen, Annaba and Biskra cities. Further, their population reached about 600 in Algiers city at the end of the 18th century . The Kouloughlis was a middle class that practiced many functions, like trade, and medium-term administrative tasks, in addition to joining army ranks and obtaining the Ottomans’ privileges.

By the early 19th century, most of the Algerian administrative tasks became their specialty , and they were the dominents in terms of numbers and  power in tebessa city, where they owned lands and served it, and lived in the nicest and most beautiful neighborhoods. They also played a significant role in some events,  where they stood by the Dey Ali Khodja to quell Janissary rebellion in 1817 AD which helped them keep some privileges and hold important office due to the satisfaction strategy adopted by some leaders like Dey Chaaban Agha who promoted some Khouloughlis to senior positions. The Beylik of the Kouloughlis west “Mustafa” passed away in 1636-1648 ,then some people converted to Islam in general. Subsequently, Turkey had a language and a nationality and they practiced imamate in Hanafi mosques, and they were also able to promote to centers of power and improve their lives by themselves.

3–The Urban category:

This category came in the third position of the social pyramid. It included scientists, traders, craftsmen, manufacturers, writers and administrative workers. It was basically composed of population groups that were permanently living in the city, and the Andalucians and nobles who joined them. This category had its social, economic and military role, and they practiced many crafts, there were: manufacturers, active traders, adventurous traders, scholars, builders and carpenters. There were also owners of shops, and even the owners of the orchards where fruits and vegetables were  produced. They additionally raised cows and sheeps destined for the consumption of the inhabitants. 

The most important elements of this category were: The Andalusian community, and the noble class.

  1. The noble community:

It represented a very small category whose origins go back to the native inhabitants. Its members were respectful and appreciated the governors and the rest of the inhabitants. Their activity was limited to preserve their privileges, and they did not affect the ruling system. 

The nobles setteled in the city since ancient times, and their situation was better than the locals’ because they were duty-free thanks to the privileges given to them by Arroudj. The members were working in trade, industry, orchards and their products consisted of wheat, barley, silk, sheeps and cows.

  1. The Andalucian community

They are one of the most significant population elements that formed the Algerian community due to their strength in number, and their role in different areas of life. Their existence in Algeria goes back to the Islamic period, then their migrations to Algeria continued until their business improved and they gained power during the 15th century with the oppression of the Spaniards and their threats about their Aqida and language.

The Andalucians had an impact on Algerian society and was a historical gain in the Islamic Maghreb for being more cultured, developed and  active. This community settled in each of Cherchel, Tnes, Dellys and Mostaganem cities and they built new cities like Blida. They also contributed in the development of the Algerian marine with their funds and expertises in ship and weapon industry in addition to their knowledge in navigation. 

They also contributed in the economic field by developing professions and handicrafts since they practiced all kinds of art like tailoring, porcelain, carpentry, pottery and more particularly silk industry by introducing silkworm. They did not stop there, they also developed agriculture by using irrigation techniques by establishing streams. On the urban side, they fortified the town by building fortresses including the island fort, and they also mastered in sculpture, music, calligraphy, education, medicine and paper making.

Adding to the previous, they also worked on enriching social life with their traditions and customs, as they were distinguished by their delicacy of taste, and their specialty in dishes like “Lahm Hlou” and clothing like Caftan. 

Despite their contribution in trade, maritime and economic businesses, they were not able to promote to the political positions.

4– Barani category:

They are the city’s temporary inhabitants, or the local elements coming from different adjacent regions and even from the inside of the country in order to look for a job and earn a living. Therefore, they are considered as nomads living in tents and known by the name tribe.

They belong to their native land where they had a responsible 

entrusted with ensuring its interests and being in charge of its business, along with delegates to help him. Each group of the Branai groups was assigned with specific jobs to do, and among those population groups that represented a significant and an effective part of  the Algerian society since they settled in the city were:

  1. Biskra group: composed of the inhabitants of the Zibane, Oued Righ, Oued Souf and Touggourt regions. 

  2. Beni M’zab group: Those who belonged to it were the inhabitants coming from Ghardaia, Beni Izguen, Melika, Beriane and El-Guerrera. In addition to the inhabitants of Beni M’zab and the regions of Chaabna and Ouargla. This group belonged to the Ibadi sect. Accordingly this category was known for its work devotion, integrity and ensuring merchandise.

  3. Jijelian group: They are one of the oldest Barani elements settled in Algeria to gain power since the settlement of Barbaros brother Arroudj and Khaireddine in Jijel.

  4. Laghouat group: They belong to Laghouat city and the two tribes Al-Zanadjira, and Ouled Nail. They are the displaced elements coming from the south.

  5. Kabyle group: Their origins go back to the mountainous zones near Algiers city for purposes of work,and most of them came from Jurjura. Their population reached four thousands in the 19th century and they worked in shops, orchards, and in charcoal, dairy and oil industries.

5–The Jewish community:

It was the most important component of the outsiders branching into three sections according to their origins: 

The native Toshabim Jews settled in the Roman era, then they were known as the Arab Jews by the Algerian muslims. As for the Megorashim Jews known as the Andalucian jews, Frankish jews, or Messianic jews who came from European countries particularly from Italy like Livorno jews and they settled in Algeria like the Bakri and Bouchenag families.

The jewish presenter was in charge of their affairs. They practiced many crafts like trade as they had haberdashery stores. There were also grocers, tailors, and glass makers.

In addition to mint and jewelry making especially jewels and corals, and mastering the sails of maritime supplies like alcohol and meat, they also played a role in commercial mediation and brokerage until they became uber-rich.

The jews excelled in commercial transactions and in negotiations among traders, which enabled them to monopolize the foreign trade by the Bakri and Bouchenag families. 

6–The Christians category:

They were known as the outsiders or the elements stranger to the Algerian Islamic community, however they were not as important as the other classes. This category included foreign traders, councils, and religious delegations men, as well as the groups of christian prisoners who were the majority in the Algerian society who came for political, economic and religious purposes. Some of them worked in maritime activity on the Algerian coasts, but the rest worked in farms and  road construction. This is how Algerians benefited from European foreigners through exchange of experience and military skills, especially in ship industry and the protection of marinas. Christian slaves also worked in garderning and serving the Deys castles.

7–The Negroes group:

It was composed of free people and black slaves who came through the saharian oases looking for jobs. The majority were from Senegal and Sudan and their population reached 2000-300 in Algiers in the 18th century. The ones who were free were working in organized groups led by a responsable called the leader. They practiced different professions like building, weaving in addition to some arts like singing, dancing and music.

Two: The social life of the inhabitants in Algeria:

The social life of the inhabitants in Algeria during the late modern era was characterized by the lifestyle that dominated the society with its customs and traditions that was reflected in religious ceremonies and weddings. In addition to different infrastructures like markets, coffee shops and Hammams.

1–Coffee shops:

It is one of those places  in Algeria frequented by men, as an institution where deals are made, and where a foreigner goes in order to have contact with Algerian people to know who they really are and to learn their language. Coffee shops were massively spread in Algeria,  especially in the road leading to the port, that was then known as the neighborhood of coffeeshops whose number reached 60 shops where people meet early in the morning until the room gradually fills up. After Dohr prayer, there was music and singing with a large audience.


Algeria experienced the emergence of some markets where they sell different items and merchandise like perfumes, textiles and jewelries. One of the famous ones was the market of Boufarik. In addition to many other kinds of markets divided into buildings where each one was specialized in different merchandise like: the oil room, leather room. These markets were the livelihoods of the inhabitants  in Algeria, especially handicraft that was the specialization of some people like jewelry and saddles making . Many popular markets existed in the Algerian neighborhoods like: Bab Azoun market and Bab El-Oued market where there was Mexican gold, Indian diamonds, the East’s silk and fabrics. The ships with different flags were entering and leaving Algeria full of fortunes. 


It is one of those public places we find in the Algerian neighborhoods as it is hard to differentiate it from regular houses. These Hammams were characterized by their wide buildings equipped with cold and hot hot water and all what a customer needs from rest and relaxation. It was clean and had lights in the ceiling, in addition to big rooms and side rooms where customers can put their clothes. There were also servants to ensure their comfort and meet their demands. Hence, Hammams had different purposes, especially the social ones as it was where people meet particularly women and discuss all kinds of work like the commercial ones, and where friends talk about family matters, and even tackle marriage matters. 

4–Customs and traditions:

Algerian people practiced many different customs like circumcision, engagement and wedding ceremonies, also receiving and sending-off pelerins. In addition to  religious events like Ramadan that had different customs that distinguishes it from the rest of the months like finishing Quran in mosques, lighting candles, and different religious rites practiced all over Algeria. There are also religious ceremonies during Eid Al-Adha, where they pray at the mosques early in the morning  then they slaughter a sheep which is considered as something special, in addition to performing different acrobatics in the presence of the Dey  and senior statesmen. As for the Mawlid, it was celebrated in a special way where there are different kinds of sweets and food and candles are lit. Fridays were also special, where the gates of the city and shops were closed during prayers and did not open until after the prayers, then families went out for picnics or family visits, and women visited cemeteries. There were also chanting groups and the spread of theater like puppet theater. 


Algeria has different kinds of food made with meat and fish. Except that the food of the inhabitants was limited to fish, in addition to Couscous which was the famous popular dish made of small grains served with vegetables. Moreover, the Algerian society was known for its big consumption of dried bull meat, and some beef.


The quality of clothes was different based on society classes, people’s fortune and seasons. Further, the Turks and Kouloughlis’ clothes were decorated with borders made of gold, silver or silk based on the person’s desire. It was basically wide pants made of cotton and a linen  shirt with a short jacket made of linen and cotton. On top a caftan with different colors and open in the front, with high shoes made of leather. 

Dey used to wear a vest made of thick linen that he wore on top of the blouse and a jacket. He also used to wear a Jabadouli made of silk embroidered with golden threads, then he pulled his clothes with a belt made of gold, and finally a black or white Burnus. As for the pants, they were usually wide in order to help them ride horses, and their shoes were ponity in the front. Dey and his courtiers wore a turban which is a quilt made of white fabric. 

While the soldiers’ clothes were pants made of thick wool and a white burnus. Colors were unspecified except for the jews who had the specific color black.

As for Arab women in Algeria, they wore Al-Hayek that was open at the chest and tightened with a belt at the belly area with a coat. When the woman was at her house, she wore pants and when she went out she put a three layers mottled dress down till the knees, and a belt made of a wide piece of fabric, then the Hayeb on top in addition to Al-Adjar to cover her face with.

The woman played a significant role in Algerian society, where she performed religious, social and caritative services. She distributed funds on poor and needy people, and books on mosques and education centers, and she followed the Sufism sects. While her role in the cultural life was very limited, she did not practice poetry and literature, however she represented the cultural side and mastered it through her creations in weaving, embroidery, knitting and jewelry making. She produced napkins, bunuses, carpets, therefore she was considered as a producer and a consumer.

She also did her home chores and raised children until the urban child became  an example of beauty and taste. She was also in charge of cleaning her house where you can walk barefoot, and she spent her free time in the Hammam and family visits. 


There is no doubt that there were some factors that affected the social and cultural life in Algeria during the late modern era, especially with the Christian and Jewish existence, and the migration of the Andalucians during the ninth century AH. Life was characterized by solidarity and coexistence, where the Algerian individual was open to all the cultures and religions of the brotherly countries, which explains the settlement of a big number of migrants in Algeria, for feeling safe and at ease.

The social conditions were also affected by diseases and epidemics, even natural disasters that affected the economy and caused a decrease of population including the 1716 earthquake that destroyed Algiers city and the devastating 1792 earthquake. In addition to floods and storms where water covered large areas like the 1816 flood.