A thriving handicrafts industry
Part of the charm of the country is the richness of its production. From carpets to ceramics, from leather to lute making, from pottery to glass working to silverwork, the country have a tremendous variety of skills that produce goods which are sold in many other countries as well as to tourists.
One such thriving industry is carpet making. Wool is obtained from local sheep, goats and sometimes dromedaries to make the carpets for which Algeria has become famous.
Sheet copperware is another specialty and was passed down from the Ottomans. Craftsmen produce unique items in Algiers, Constantine, Ghardaia, Tindouf and Tlemcen. Attractive decorative lamps with multicolor glasses can be found all over the country.
Traditional Berber silverware is extremely popular and some fine pieces are made with semi-precious stones and coral. Craftsmen make brooches and pendants and do enameling.
One of the popular products on sale is the "rose des sables" sand rose, which is a form of crystalline structure that grows below desert sands and can reach quite huge dimensions.
Inspired by a variety of sources, jewelry is the living testimony of an age-old creative force. From prehistory and antiquity to the Middle Ages, from the Roman-Byzantine era to the emergence of Islam, traditional jewelry has always expressed the very essence of those eras through harmonious symbolism. Algiers, Tlemcen and Constantine are vibrant jewelry centers, if only because of the sheer number of stands and shops. Other regions are also known for the quality of their jewelry.
Jewelry from Béni Yenni are famous for their silver jewelry.
The glazing technique was introduced around the 15th Century. The forms and colors used are specific to the region.
Chaoui jewelry has stood the test of time and has managed to preserve its authenticity. It is defined by the "Alaq Tchoutchara" (earring) that is sadly not made anymore. However, the Lamessak, a recent creation true to the Chaoui style as well as the Tinahissin, the khelkhal (ancient ankle bracelet that women from the region never take off) and the Skhab (necklace) can be found throughout the Mahgreb region.
This traditional form of jewelry is of a hybird style, with Roman and Byzantine external influences, and is based on traditions pertaining to daily life and the environment. Besides the Akhelkhal, one can find Abzims and necklaces whose main characteristic is a close resemblance to Chaoui jewelry.
This jewelry reflects a well-preserved and wisely maintained tradition, thanks mainly to the legendary Inadens. It attained mythical social status. Tuareg society is truly devoted to artisans and noble crafts, such as jewelry. Its symbolism echoes the perpetual quest of the Tuareg to control natural elements. Pendants, rings, pectorals, earrings, anklets, brass rings, and shell necklaces are all loyal representations of a bygone era. Tuareg jewelry reflects a constant concern for pure aesthetics.
Leatherwork is well established in Algerian regions where husbandry is done on a large scale. These arts and crafts are geared towards the production of footwear, belts, horse and camel saddles, containers, pillowcases, sword scabbards, and flywhisks.
* Leatherwork of Tlemcen
This craft owes a great deal to the local embroidery and sewing heritage. Greatly influenced by Andalusian culture it remains a stronghold of Hispano-Moorish art.
The leatherwork of Tlemcen is famous for its motifs and forms used in boots, saddles, satchels, wallets and other manual items used in everyday life.
* Leatherwork of the Deep South - Tamanrasset
In this region know-how is organic, mystical and a reflection of the vast surrounding spaces. Inspiration is always glimmering and the product is of very high quality.
Whether an Arreg (travel bag), El-sedira (saddlebag) or Tarallabt (wallet) perfection prevails.
* Leatherwork of Médéa
Synonymous with expertise and refinement, Médéa was once famous for its leather moccasins, harnesses, saddles and belts. Wallets, cigarette holders, and bags embroidered with gold and silver thread were eventually added.
Artisans are desperately trying to uphold traditions but trade modernization based on foreign models prevents them from returning to earlier designs.
After surviving unscathed for centuries, traditional Algerian rug-making has now blossomed to its full vibrancy. For this trade, time has stood still. Authentic shapes and styles have been preserved even if some rugs show slight hints of modern influences.
The range of rugs available clearly demonstrates the Algerian cultural melting pot.
Rugs can be of Berber, Maghrebian, Arabo- Muslim, African, or even Oriental inspiration.
Rugs of Eastern Algeria
The shapes of rugs of Haracta (Aurès) and Némemcha-Babar (Tébessa-Khenchela) are so similar that distinguishing them is no easy task. Even more so the latter, with its Berber-Oriental symbolic ornamentation, is reminiscent of the legendary Haracti rugs, rooted in everyday life, after the near disappearance of all Chaoui influence.
Rugs of Small Kabylie
Maâdid (M'sila – Bordj Bou Arréridj) and Guergour (Sétif- Béjaïa) rugs, with their Berber symbols, show the same Oriental influences, however slight, reflecting the various civilizations that have blossomed in the region.
Weavings of Great Kabylie
The most magnificent weavings are undeniably the rugs of Ain Hichem (Tizi-Ouzou), which combine delicateness and refinement, swathed in folk and rural imagery.
Weavings of Oranie
Created with soft and varied tones and gorgeous nuances, these rugs show slight Berber and Hispano-Moorish influences. The rugs of Kalaâ des Béni Rached are the most famous of all Oranie. They are an authentic, high quality product, and probably the best product of its genre in the entire Maghreb region.
Rugs of Djebel Amour
Made with stunning ingenuity in terms of the complexity of weaving, they are one of the most magnificent specimens in Algeria, famous for their originality and motifs of Berber inspiration. Extremely sober in style, they are defined by a harmonious balance seldom
Oued Souf (El Oued –Guemmar) rugs are characterized by Ottoman influences and borrow from Némemchi rugs. Those of Béni-Isguen (Ghardaïa) are world-renowned thanks in part to very effective marketing. Doukkali (Adrar) weavings and those of Timimoun, date back to 1270 of the Hijra and still use original designs.