Where are you from and where do you live in Algeria?
Assalamualaikum. My name is Hanina. My mother is Australian and my father is Algerian. My father left Algeria when he was 16yrs old and came back at the age of 70yrs old. He even forgot his Arabic!!!. I was born in Tasmania and brought up in Melbourne, Australia. I came to Algeria when i was 18yrs old and I have been here for 12yrs.
How long have you been living in Algeria for?
I have been living in Babeloued, Algiers for 11yrs and I now live in Bouzareah.
What were the hardest things to overcome at the beginning of your hijrah?
The hardest things to overcome for me was the language barrier and culture. When I came here I didn’t know a word of Arabic, which was very frustrating. When I used to speak I was made fun of lol!! Speaking of culture, I was mixed up between culture and religion. When I came to Algeria I had the whole idea that I was coming to an Islamic country to live. When I came here i was shocked. I.e. the mixed weddings with music, the way the hijab is worn, the idea of shaking hands and kissing non mahrams, ladies that outside wear hijab being seen by neighbours and other male family members is not frowned upon etc. I was totally shocked!!
And the positive things?
On the positive side, my husband’s family, his friends wives and the neighbours were very welcoming and understanding mashallah. Algerians love their visitors and look after them well. The best experience here for me was hearing the adhan. Words cannot describe it. I had never heard the adhan outside before coming here. Fasting Ramadan in Algeria is also something I couldn’t live without. It’s a wonderful experience mashallah. The fact that the whole country is fasting and at maghreb time no one is to be seen on the streets as they are all breaking their fasts is just amazing. Walking in the streets and not being stared at or being frowned upon because of my jilbab and niqab made me feel very safe and I felt as if I was a part of Algeria, that I belong here. There are a lot of things I have experienced here that I would definitely not have ever experienced in Australia. I feel that Algeria has become a part of me and I feel comfortable living here and wouldn’t change it for anything.
Do your kids attend public school? What are your thoughts about school in Algeria?
I have 5 kids alhamdulillah. 4 boys and 1 girl. 11yrs, 8yrs, 7yrs and twins 3yrs. My eldest 3 boys are in all in primary school; grade 5 (6eme) grade 3 and grade 2. In Babeloued where I used to live, the public school that they attended was just up the road. It was chaos. The classes were overloaded with approx 40 kids per class, teachers hit the kids, no playgrounds, too many exams (starting from preschool), heaps of homework and the list is never ending. Now I live in Bouzareah and they currently attend a private school called ‘erradja wa tafawaq’. Alhamdulillah a very big difference. There is a school bus that transports kids to and from school, classes have only 15 students, they have lunch at school, proper playground, cameras everywhere, teachers don’t hit kids, they go on excursions, they pray duhur at school with their teachers, highschool boys and girls are separated and the list goes on. Mashallah ni3ma.
Education, in general, from my point of view is crazy!!! I feel that here many teachers aren’t even fully educated. Exams from preschool right thru to grade 12 (BAC) it’s too much pressure for the kids and parents. Homework is overloaded and the teachers don’t even explain the homework to the kids before hand, its all up to the parents. I better stop here because there is a lot to mention in regards to the education system here.
Do you speak derja or Arabic? Any advice to the sisters who want to learn how to speak it?
Alhamdulillah I speak full Algerian derja. It only took me about 2yrs to learn. I learnt most of it from my husband as he never knew how to speak (yes I didnt know Arabic and he didn’t know English, not even a word!! Strange but true lol ). I also used to go to his parents house a lot as they lived not far from me, which also helped me out a lot. For me it was easy to learn as there wasn’t anyone for me to speak English to as I had no family here and no English speaking friends. I can say it was like being ‘forced’ to learn. My advice to sisters that want to learn darja is in order to learn it you need practice. Practice meaning going to an Arabic speaking friends house or husbands family’s house from time to time. Your husbands also need to be helpful by trying to speak to you in Arabic only from time to time. Yes, it is frustrating but I promise it’s worth it. Knowing how to speak and understand derja is a big help here in Algeria. It’s a must I can say and helps a lot and enhances communication skills. Being able to communicate helps building your self confidence and will help with the sense of belonging.
Has it been easy to adapt to the Algerian produces and organize your weekly menu?
Adapting to the Algerian produces was hard at the beginning. A lot of things that I used to eat I haven’t had them for years. My husband had a very low wage and had no car, so I wasn’t able to go to restaurants or purchase things I craved for. The only way for me was to learn to cook and get used to eating Algerian food. I used to go to my in laws house everyday in order to learn to cook. I would sit down and watch and write down recipes (which was hard as I didn’t know Arabic and they didn’t know English) and go home and try them. I failed at the beginning but now I can cook everything you name. My husband’s family even ask me for recipes!!. The key for learning is never give up as practice makes perfect. I’ll tell you a story that will make you laugh. The first week of my marriage my husband went shopping. I was looking through the bags and sorting it all out until I saw a feathery chicken head and feet coming out of a bag. I screamed as at the beginning I didn’t recognise what it was. My husband came running and asked me what was wrong. He looked sooo worried. I told him to open the bag and see. He said ‘its a kitchen’ lool (he didn’t speak fluent English) and he couldn’t stop laughing. He told me to clean it and just freeze it. I said “how”? He laughed again. I explained to him that I had never seen such a thing in my life and had never cleaned a chicken. We ended up taking the chicken to the in laws so I could learn to wash it. Now alhamdulillah I wash chicken and cut it up professionally. Cooking in Algeria was a chaos for me at the beginning as everything needs to be done by scratch and not all the vegetables and fruits are available all seasons. Getting used to the Algerian food was hard but alhamdulillah I now enjoy it!!
A general advice to your sisters in Islam who are planning to make hijrah?
General advice to sisters that are making or are planning to make hijra is to remember that what you are doing is for Allah swt and that after hardship comes ease. There will be ups and downs at times, but if you put your trust into Allah swt you will be able to always look at the positive side of things. Patience is also something very important. Getting used to living in a foreign country isn’t easy. It is a very big change in all aspects. For example; culture, food, language, living conditions etc, so being patient is the key. Some will get used to the hijra quicker than others while some will find it hard or impossible. May Allah swt guide us all and give us what is best for us, ameen.
Name 3 things you love about Algeria.
Overall, I must admit that Algeria is a beautiful country. Yes, there is an endless list of negative things here but alhamdulillah I am happy to say that after being here for 12yrs I call Algeria home. I get angry/upset at times and it comes to my mind that I want to go back but I always remember that Allah swt has chosen me to live in an Islamic country and I must thank HIM for everything. Three of my favourites in Algeria would be hearing the adhan, being able to walk in the streets with my jilbab and niqab without feeling different and Ramadan here.
May Allah swt make it easy for those making hijra ameen