In Algeria, olive oil is being reinvented

In Mounir’s café, rue Belouizdad, in the center of Algiers, you find what an ordinary café can offer, drinks and cakes, but a new ingredient has intruded: olive oil. A rectangular paper on which you can read “Good quality Jijel olive oil” is stuck on the refrigerator, at the entrance to the establishment, in order to attract the attention of customers, but also passers-by.

“We come from Jijel (east of Algiers), one of the prefectures known for its olive oil production, and we market the products of our fields, confides Mounir. Our point of sale is now known. People trust us and prefer to buy olive oil from farmers rather than industrial olive oil. You never know what’s in those bottles.”

At the café, Mounir sells the season’s produce, but olive oil is sold throughout the year. “My brother, in Aïn Naadja (suburb of Algiers), is constantly in demand. You can find oils from previous years at his place,” he says.

In M’Chedallah, commune of (the wilaya of) Bouira, 120 kilometers east of Algiers, Abdelkrim, 32, a sales executive, devotes his weekends to working in his family’s olive fields.

“I love this tree”, he simply says to explain his passion for the olive tree and oil. “We only had 200 trees at the end of the ‘black decade’ (the 1990s, so called because of the civil war), because it was hazardous to maintain the fields during that period, remembers Abdelkrim. We, the grandsons, took over after my grandfather died in 2004. We built a pond and a well, and planted new trees. We now have 920 olive trees.”

A family tradition

The processes of cultivation and extraction of olive oil are considered a ritual for certain populations, to the point that in December 2023 UNESCO listed the rituals, festivities and other social practices marking the beginning and end olive harvests in Turkey on the list of intangible cultural heritage.

In Algeria too, the production of oil is not limited to picking the fruit and pressing it, but is part of a tradition which allows one to be in contact with the earth and in which the whole family must take part.

“It is very important for us that the whole family leaves

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