A Brief Guide to Kabylie

Alex Mellon / © Culture Trip
Alex Mellon / © Culture Trip
Photo of Luke Bradshaw
Sports Editor13 April 2018

Kabylie, or Kabylia, is the historical and cultural home of the Kabylian people. Over time, the region and its people have forged a reputation for tremendous fight and resistance when faced with adversity that continues today.


The Kabylie area is situated on the northern tip of Algeria, in north Africa, between the Tell Atlas Mountains (to the south) and the Mediterranean Sea (to the north).


Kabylie made up part of the Kingdom of Numidia and the Roman Empire, with the Berber Quinquegentiani tribe rebelling against the latter, but eventually being driven out of the area. Because of the region’s mountainous terrain, only small parts of it were conquered by the Ottoman Empire during the Middle Ages, with the higher parts of Kabylie remaining relatively autonomous. That said, Islam was gradually adopted during the time of Ottoman rule in northern Africa, although not as quickly or as strictly as other parts of the empire. Kabylie’s relative independence continued under the Regency of Algiers, right up until the arrival of Europeans and French colonisation.

After large resistance, Kabylie eventually fell under French rule in the middle of the 19th century. It was then that Kabylie established its first defined borders, becoming the administrative territory that remains today. It also became the focal point for resistance against the French, and continued an element of resistance against the country’s government even when Algeria gained its own independence in 1962.

The Berber Spring in 1980 saw consistent protesting in defence and protection of the region’s Berber identity, and against the country’s “Islamification”, but was ended violently by the state. This was repeated when in 2001 a student (Massinissa Guermah) died while being held under police custody, with huge rioting taking place as a result. Algeria’s response to the riots, known as the Black Spring, led to thousands being wounded and 123 deaths. In the summer of the same year, the Movement for the Autonomy of Kabylie (MAK) was formed, with the movement’s main policy being independence from Algeria.

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Political status:

Since Algeria declared independence there have been tensions between Kabylie and the country’s central government, particularly through the Socialist Forces Front (FFS). Although the historical region covers a number of different Algerian districts, Kabylie doesn’t have any of its own politcal sovereignty or independence.


The predominant ethnic group is Kabyle. Their language – a variety of Berber – is also called Kabyle. Berber and its variations was recognised as a national language of Algeria in 2002, and an official language of Algeria in 2016. The majority of the Kabyle population are Muslim, although there is a Christian minority. France also has a Kabyle diaspora of around one million.


  • Population: 7,500 approx.
  • Capital: Béjaïa
  • Major languages: Kabyle (Tamazight), French, Algerian Arabic
  • Currency: Dinar
  • Major religions: Islam