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The hardship of a life spent herding animals in the arid regions has forced many rural people into the coastal towns to find work. Over half of all Algerians are now city-dwellers. Some live in smart, new apartment blocks, others in slums. Algeria's growing economy is based on the rich oilfields of the eastern Sahara. With profits from oil, the government has built new factories. But as yet there are not enough jobs to go round. Many people have gone abroad to work, especially to France, which ruled Algeria for 130 years and so has close ties with the country. Since independence in 1962, Algeria has moved away from European influences. Arabic is the language of the courts and schools. Writers and artists are returning to the traditions of the Arab and Berber peoples.
Most Algerians are of mixed Berber and Arab descent. The Berber people have lived in this region for thousands of years. Arab conquerors invaded in the AD 600's and converted the Berbers to Islam. Over the centuries many Arabs and Berber inter married, but they still form separate cultural groups, each with its own style of dress and language.