It has been said that what pasta is to the Italians and rice to the Chinese, so couscous is as an essential part of life to the people of Algeria. Algeria forms part of the Maghreb-al-Aqsa (the land where the sun sets) that also includes Morocco and Tunisia.
The mention of couscous to any Algerian sparks sentimental memories of home, love and community.
Traditionally, couscous is eaten communally – everyone gathers around a big bowl and shares it.
Couscous is more than a simple meal to Algerians and the people of the Maghreb. The joy of eating it imbues well-being in those who share it.
It is also a symbol of health, happiness and abundance. Those who partake of it believe God’s blessings flow faster and stronger when one is gathered around a bowl of couscous.
For those far from home or maybe others wanting to sample traditional couscous, a newly opened restaurant called the Cazbar Roadhouse is set to be the Algerian sweet-spot in town.
The Cazbar usually sells fast food but for the duration of the World Cup the owners have created a traditional Algerian menu of couscous and a variety of meat stews.
The Algerian community’s celebrations to welcome their football team, the Desert Foxes, and ignite a spirit of togetherness have begun.
On any given night, you may find traditional chaabi musician Arezki Meghnini playing his mandolin before the couscous is served.
Chaabi, known as the predecessor to Algeria’s globally enjoyed rai music, is a percussive and vocal music which stirs the soul. Originating in the deeply traditional casbah of Algiers, the themes of chaabi music are love, loss, exile, friendship and betrayal. The lyrics always carry a strong message.
A man who is passionate about his culture, Arezki plays the mandolin acoustically and with a band when possible.
His Berber origins inspire him to keep his culture alive while in South Africa.
Arezki says: “I’m a barber by day and a musician by night. I live for my music. As an artist, my heart is a mirror for the people. My mandolin is my best friend. I share my heart and my culture through my music.”
His brand of Algerian music will be celebrated by Algerian fans gathering at Cazbar Roadhouse and at the Sandton public viewing area to watch the games.
He says: “I believe in one Africa. Yes, I’m proud to be Algerian but I’m an African. I love living in South Africa.”
» Cazbar Roadhouse: 210 Reitfontein Road, Primrose, Germiston. Yakoubi Zahir 0797926664. The couscous menu is available until the end of July 2010. Call 24 hours in advance to order
» Arezki Meghnini will play at the Sandton public viewing area on Sunday June 13 and Wednesday June 16 2010. For bookings 0829519859