The Patron Saint of Sponge Cake

Mouskoutchou – ce gâteau algérien, léger comme un nuage, d’un gout très agréable parfumé au citron…..

Mouskoutchou – this Algerian sponge cake, light as a cloud, deliciously flavoured with a hint of lemon….

-Recettes algériennes


“Come with me, a mmi, this morning we’re going to visit the shrine of Sidi Messaoud, to ask for his blessing.” T. had just finished scrubbing his face with a damp flannel and was looking forward to another day’s adventures with his friends from the village. His mother’s pronouncement cast a slight shadow over the sunny day he glimpsed beckoning to him through the window of his grandparents’ house. Continue reading

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The Sunlit Uplands

Temlal tasa d way turew. 

A family reunion (Loose translation)

-Kabyle expression


Kker, a mmi, kker!” (Wake up, my son, wake up!) T could hear his mother’s voice coming from far away. He could still feel the heady pull of his dreams, beckoning him back to play. Then he remembered. Sitting bolt upright in bed, he rubbed his eyes and looked at his mother, who was trying, rather unsuccessfully, to wake his younger brothers and sister as well. The windows of their flat above the bakery on the main square of Maison Carrée were still dark, the night pressing against the panes. He started trembling from excitement and anticipation. Today was the day. Continue reading

The Olive Tree

If the olive trees knew the hands that had planted them, their oil would become tears.

– Mahmoud Darwish


Etch, the-lahnayek, etch.” (Eat, please, eat). T. looked blankly at his paternal grandmother, Yamina, without really seeing her. She looked old and tired, ravaged by age and sorrow. Her scarves and shawls were wrapped tightly around her hunched figure and her face was scored by wrinkles so pronounced, it was as if the skin no longer had a connection to the skull underneath. It was hard to tell what she must have looked like as a young woman. Continue reading

Welcome Home

T.’s eyes grew black with anger as he glared balefully at the older man standing in front of him.”You’ll get your money back now that I have the bakery!” he shouted, spitting out every word. It was the day after his father’s death, and the latter’s older cousin — who had been saved from almost certain death by the generosity of T’s father — had sidled up to him and whispered that his father had died owing him seven hundred thousand francs (about £70) and that he wanted his money back. Continue reading

Axxam

Ixxamen n medden weɛṛen, ma ur nɣin ad sḍeɛfen.

Living in somebody else’s house is hard – if it doesn’t kill you, it will make you lose weight.

— Kabyle proverb


If  you go ever go up into Kabylie  – either to make your annual pilgrimage to your ancestral village, or simply driven by a tourist’s curiosity – you will find that many of the villages, perched on their peaks or strung along their high ridges, have lost much of their traditional character. Continue reading

Kid Brother

Children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of enjoyment in their power, which no subsequent connections can supply…
– Jane Austen


“Here! YOU talk to him! Order some more flour!” The speaker was my father-in-law, his pale, emaciated face running with sweat as he thrust the telephone receiver at the nervous eighteen-year-old youth standing in front of him. The young man took the receiver with trembling hands from his brother-in-law and looked at it in bemusement. He didn’t know one end of it from the other. How to dial? How to go through the operator? What should he say when he finally had the flour supplier on the line? Continue reading

Broomflower Pass

Uqbel at-tger assurif at-tezzwerm  nnif ma ulac Tamazight ulac ulac ulac ulac.

We cannot build our future without honour and there is no honour without our language. None, none, none, none. (Loose translation)

– Matoub Lounès


From the moment a Kabyle arrives in Tizi-Ouzou, he is already home. This holds true even if he still has many miles to drive along the twisting mountain roads to reach his ancestral village. The air of Tizi-Ouzou smells sweeter to him than that of Algiers, and he fills his lungs with it as he takes a deep breath. His shoulders straighten as though ridding themselves of an unseen burden, and his step becomes lighter. Continue reading