Book Review: Les Algériennes du château d’Amboise

Tomorrow we will celebrate the 61st anniversary of the Algerian Revolution. I used to dedicate a post to this occasion with a link to a song or a poem. This time will be different as I am taking this opportunity to finish this book review draft and post it.

The Algerian Revolution was the final step taken by the Algerian people towards their independence. All the armed and peaceful resistance actions taken since the French invasion in 1830 paved the way for the glorious War of Independence. The resistance movement led by Emir Abdekader was a major episode even though it ended with the prince surrendering to the French who imprisoned him and his followers in France instead of sending him to today’s Turkey, Syria, Egypt or KSA as was agreed between the Emir and the Duke of Aumale. And this is where Amel Chaouati’s book comes in.

Many books have been and are written on Emir Abdelkader but only a few speak of his 97 followers (including 21 women and 15 children and babies) and I don’t remember reading any which relate the story of the women amongst them during his detention period in France (three months in Toulon, four in Pau and four long years in Amboise). Chaouati tried to tackle this aspect.

I admit I was more sceptical when I bought the 1500 DZD worth book than when I started reading this one. I wondered what the author would have to say knowing the scarcity of historical sources. And I was right, there was little material to fill the 204 pages of the book except that the author chose a different perspective.

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Rais Hamidou

Rais Hamidou is one of the most famous corsairs of the Regency of Algiers. He was and still is very popular among Algerians mainly because he was a very powerful corsair who won many battles (and captured many ships and prisoners), because he was the last great Rais before Algeria’s invasion, and because he was a local (tawa3na) unlike the other major corsairs who came from Europe.

Albert Devoulx, who wrote a lot about the Regency of Algiers, could retrieve many documents related to Rais Hamidou and wrote therefore a book about his life. You can download it from the second link I provided here.

Rais Hamidou ben Ali was born in El Casbah of Algiers in the 1770s. His ancestors being Kabyles from the Isser district in Boumerdes. He started training to become a tailor like his father, but the stories he hears on Algeria’s corsairs ignited his thirst for adventure and pushed him to leave the training and sail in a Regency’s ship at the age of 10 or 11. Continue reading

Mohamed Bencheneb

While I was zapping between the many Turkish TV channels I receive (I am not addicted to Turkish soaps, not to all :-)) I heard the word “doshman” (dusman in Turkish) which we happen to use in Kabyle. I thought how interesting; not only the word is Turkish but it kept almost the same meaning after being “Kabyle-ised”. This reminded me of Benecheb’s book on Turkish words in Algerian dardja.

Mohammed ben Larbi ben Boucheneb, a.k.a. Mohamed Bencheneb was born in October 26th, 1869 in Ain Dehab, Medea, Algeria. His paternal  family came from Bursa, Turkey. And his maternal grand-father, Bash Tazi Ahmed Tbidji, was the Qaid of Righa (between Medea and Miliana) and worked for the Ottomans before joining Emir abdelkader for whom he worked until his death. Continue reading

Messaoud Zeggar (or Zeghar)

Secrecy is what comes to mind when thinking of Algerian politics. This includes the Algerian war of independence, the Algerian diplomacy, the Algerian army (and secret services) and the Algerian regime’s internal conflicts.

Messaoud Zeggar a.k.a. Rachid Casa or Mister Harry (born 1926 – died 1987) had a share into all these aspects, and his life is therefore shadowy and full of rumours. The below text (compiled from Algerian newspapers and several other sites) is but one version among many others. Perhaps are we going to know more in the future (do not rely on WikiLeaks though). Continue reading

Baba Merzoug

Baba Merzoug

Baba Merzoug was born in 1542, he was 7 metres tall and weighed 12 tonnes, and he was already strong enough to reach targets within a 4872 meters range. Very quickly, he was associated with his older but smaller brothers and helped protect and defend Algiers during more than two centuries.

Beylerbey Hassan ordered the famous Algerian canon, but it was Mezzo Morto (aka Hadj Hussein) who added to his fame. In 1683, the Regency’s marine captured a French ship and sold its commander as a slave. Louis XIV decided to punish Algiers and almost succeeded as his fleet attacked the city and the Dey (Baba Hassan) accepted the French conditions. But Mezzo Morto assassinated Baba Hassan became the new Dey, and encouraged the inhabitants to fight against the French. He ordered Baba Merzoug to aim at the French fleet and fire, but only after the French King’s consul was placed between the canon and its target. Many say this Continue reading

Cheikh El Fodil El Ouartilani

El Ouartilani

Last week started the 51st commemorations of the death of Cheikh Fodil El Ouartilani (born Feb. 6, 1900, Beni Ourtilane, Algeria — died March 12, 1959, Ankara, Turkey), so I take this opportunity to recall some parts of his biography.

Brahim Ben Mustapha El Djazairi, a.k.a. Fodil El Ouartilani, learnt Qur’an and Arabic in Beni Ourtilane, before going to Constantine to study in one of Imam Abdelhamid Benbadis‘s schools. There he studied Tafsir, Hadith and many other religious sciences. He was influenced by Benbadis and became a member of the Association of the Algerian Muslim Scholars (AOMA). Continue reading

El Emir Abdel-Kader

El Emir Abdel Kader

One of my favourite Algerian personnalities is El Amir Abdel-Kader (born Sept. 6, 1808, near Mascara, Algeria — died May 26, 1883, Damascus, Syria). I like his political acumen and his ardour in fighting off the French colonizers (the resistance battles he led against the French troops lasted 15 years). I find it wonderful how these qualities were combined with a chivalrous humanism which earned him the respect of even his enemies.

El Amir Abdel-Kader was likened to George Washington (who is often referred to as ‘Father of His Country’) as he is considered to be the founder of modern Algeria. I tend to agree with this comparison and if anyone deserves the title of ‘Father of Algeria’, it would be this man in my opinion. Continue reading