Yep, you guessed correctly. There’s a whole lot of desert in Algeria. In fact, 80% of Algeria is covered by the Sahara Desert, forcing most of the population to live to the north, along the Mediterranean coast (source).
The surplus of sand must have inspired the national dish: couscous (couscous is also the national dish of Morocco and Tunisia). Couscous is a very fine pasta shaped just like, well, grains of sand.
A warm bed of couscous is the perfect base for intensely flavored dishes. Cayenne pepper, saffron, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves all make appearances in traditional Algerian cuisine.
Algerian cusine comes from the proverbial “melting pot.” Olives, oranges, and figs are popular mediterranean components. Turkish Delight and other sweets are the mark of the Ottomans. Baguettes remain a staple due to the lasting French influence in Algeria.
PS. In the spirit of authenticity, we’re eating with our right hand this week! Wash up 🙂