Insight into the Kabyle People of Algeria

The Kabyle people form Algeria’s largest homogeneous cultural-linguistic-ethnic community, and are considered the most traditional Berbers in North Africa. They have become a dominant group in Algeria, with an estimated forty percent of the Algerian community consisting of Kabyle people, and originate from their homeland, which is located in the northern region of Algeria, in Kabylie.

The villages of the Kabyle people are scattered amongst the mountain peaks of Algeria at altitudes that vary from between six to nine thousand feet in the Atlas mountains’ eastern regions, a mere hundred kilometers from Algiers. Before the inhabitation of Kabylie (also Kabylia), no communities were documented in these locations in ancient times, and it was generally known as an area that was home to monkeys, eagles, wild boars, bears and rocky terrain. This all changed with the alliance that was formed between the Numidians and Rome to fight the Phoenicians in 500 BC. The General of the Numidian Armies, Jugurtha, decided to oppose Rome, and the Kabylia region was soon being flooded by warriors and their families, using the area to hide in and also to create training camps. Forts were constructed in the location referred to as Lower Kabylia. Thus Kabylia came to be inhabited.

The traditional language of this ethnic group is Kabyle, with Arabic, French and English being their second or even third languages. Since 1980, the Kabyles have been fighting for their language to be officially recognized as a Berber language. Most Kabyles follow the Muslim religion.

The Kabyles earn a living in two different industries. Firstly through their successful craft industry, this includes pottery and tapestries; and secondly through arboriculture, which includes olive trees and orchards. They have also been very successful in other areas of Algeria’s economy, with most of the companies on the Algerian stock exchange being Kabyle owned. The Kabyle people have not only proved to be a very traditional ethnic group, but have been able to adapt to new challenges.