In general, though the Muslims of North Africa consider themselves to be more liberal and tolerant than their neighbors—most urban women, for example, dress in Western clothes and do not veil themselves, and (though it is considered inappropriate by some Muslims) locally made wines and spirits are consumed—they still maintain a strong Islamic identity. They absorb new cultural influences from abroad while upholding their own values, but they are also vigilant about the impact of Western influence on their way of life. Those concerns led to a revival of some forms of social and religious conservatism in the 1990s, notably affecting women in the public sphere. Street cafés have increasingly become the preserve of men, especially in rural areas where relations between the sexes are still governed by conservative social norms.
Even the Westernized North African Muslims adhere to certain traditional values; foremost among these is the role of the family as the center of social life. Meals are an important time for families to gather. Cuisine consists of a medley of European cuisine—largely French and Italian—and traditional dishes. As in the rest of North Africa, couscous, a semolina-based pasta, is a staple of virtually every meal and is customarily served with a rich stew. Other native basics are lamb, peppers, onions, chickpeas (often served in cakes as a dessert), and olive oil. Various types of seafood can be found near the coast. Unlike in other neighboring countries, the food is replete with hot spices, and harissa, a fiery red sauce, is served with most dishes.
The Muslims of North Africa observe the standard Islamic holidays as well as several secular and national holidays, such as Independence Day (March 20) and Women’s Day (August 13).