Kutama (Berber: Iktamen) were a major Berber Tribe in northern
Algeria classified among the Berber Confederation of the Bavares. the
Kutama are attested much earlier, in the form Koidamousii by the Greek
Kutama played a pivotal role during the
(909–1171), forming the
Fatimid army which eventually overthrew the
Aghlabids who controlled Ifriqiya, and which then went on to conquer
Egypt and the southern
Levant in 969–975. The
Kutama remained one of
the mainstays of the
Fatimid army until well into the 11th century.
3 21st century
4 See also
Kutama are part of the Branes branch of Berbers. The
related to the Zouaoua, and are located in the larger
They are neighbouring the Zenati of the Ulhassa in the eastern part
towards Annaba and the Aures.
In his book, published in 1867, Ernest Mercier mentions the presence
of Oulhaça in the vicinity of Annaba in
The Kutamas were a group of Eastern
Algeria in the 13th century
located at the border terminals Wilayas of
Bejaia and Constantine and
the borders of the
Aures which corresponds to la Petite Kabylie and a
part of eastern
Algeria Kabylie orientale (far Eastern Kabylia) in the
The Zedjala are part of Ulhassa in the Medjana, a plain bordered by
the Aures. They are installed near the
Aures Mountains Eiad.
Today, representatives of the Ulhaasa live in the neighborhood of Wad
Tafna west of modern
Algeria in the Wilaya of Ain Temouchent near
An anecdote explaining the origins of the term "Kutama" is recounted
by the Tenth-Century
Ismaili jurist, al-Qadi al-Nu'man in his work
entitled Iftitāḥ al-da‘wa, in which a preacher by the name of Abu
‘Abd Allah al-
Shi’i encountered a group of
Kutama on the
Mecca in 893 CE. Upon meeting him, this particular group
Kutama Pilgrims became convinced of the
Ismaili faith and brought
Abu ‘Abd Allah along with them back to their country of origin.
Along the way, Abu ‘Abd Allah asked the pilgrims about a region
called the Valley of the Pious (fajj al-akhyār). The
astounded that he knew of this place and asked how he came to hear of
it. Citing a prophetic tradition (hadīth) of Muhammad, Abu ‘Abd
Allah replied that in fact this place was named after the very Kutama
themselves: "The Mahdi shall emigrate far from his home at a time full
of trials and tribulations. The pious (al-akhyār) of that age shall
support him, a people whose name is derived from kitmān
(secrecy)." He explained that it was to the
Kutama that the
tradition referred and on account of them that the region was named
the Valley of the Pious.
It was in the beginning of the Muslim era and in the Middle Ages that
their influence was the greatest.
The Maghreb is the historic home of the great Berber tribe Kutama, who
played a considerable role in the Middle Ages, mainly because it was
behind the creation of the
Fatimid empire in the tenth century. The
Fatimid state was one of the largest empires of Islamic history that
extended from today's Morocco to Saudi Arabia.
Unlike other Muslim authorities, the
Fatimids based their
administration not on tribal, ethnic or even religious criteria, but
primarily on merit and competence. The
Kutama and other
attracted by this.
In the early tenth century the
Kutama formed a coalition with the
Fatimids against the
Aghlabids who ruled
supported the Abbasids. The
Kutama became fierce protectors of the new
Fatimid state and constituted the mainstay of its army.
Abu Abd Allah ash-Shi'i, Shiite missionary met the
Kutama and paved
the way for his master Ubayd Allah al-Mahdi, a Shi'ite
Syria and founder of the
Fatimid Caliphate to be presented as the
Mahdi. Abu Abd Allah ash-Shi'i's dream was to topple the
in Abbasid Baghdad in favour of a Shi'ite dynasty.
In the 903 the Kutama, by then converted to Shiism and also to the
ideology of al-Mahdi, began the uprising. On March 19, 909, they
destroyed the Aghlabid dynasty installed by the Abbasids in Ifriqiya
near Laribus. Six days later, they entered the Aghlabid capital,
Raqqada. Later the
Fatimid capital was moved to Mahdiyya.
The Fatimids, with their
Kutama army under
Jawhar al-Siqilli (the
Sicilian) conquered Egypt in 969. A new
Fatimid capital named
al-Qahira (Cairo), meaning "the Victorious" was founded.
The Kutamas installed a military camp near Cairo, forming a formidable
military power in the service of the
Fatimid Caliph. They led later
expeditions to Damascus against the Abbasids. The district Kotama
"El-Hai Kotamiyine" in
Cairo and the Maghreb area of "Al-Harat
Maghariba" in Damascus, still testify to the influence of this tribe
whose members were, during different periods, repressed by the
Abbasids and their allies.
Saladin in 1171 overthrew the
1171 and returned Egypt to
Sunni Abbasid allegiance. The Siwis,
Berbers of Egypt, are Kutama.
After conquering Egypt, the
Fatimids left the Maghreb under the
Kutama Bologhin ibn Ziri, who was the governor of Ifriqiya. He
became the founder of the Zirid dynasty.
But according to al-Idrissi (12th century) there were only 4,000
individuals throughout the Ifriqiya
The Kotamas were located in the provinces of Béjaïa, Jijel, Sétif,
and West Mila . Kotama culture is still present to some wide extent;
for instance, the "fish couscous", seksou bel'hout, popular in this
region and in northern Tunisia is of Kotama origin.
From a cultural standpoint, the inhabitants of this region keep track
of their identity as Kutama, but most tribes have been assimilated to
the Kabyles (Bejaia), Arabs (Annaba) and the Kabyles el hadra (Jijel,
Mila), Keita and Skikda, Setif. There are also descendants of Kutama
Siwis in Egypt. The challenge to resist the influence of the dominant
tribes, such as the Sanhadja or the Bani Hilal, and the dynasties who
succeeded the Fatimids, such as the Ayyubids, the Hammadids, the
Almoravids, and the
Almohads was difficult. The fact that there is a
Kotama identity today is evidence of their persistence in the face of
these challenges. The language of the Kotama has largely been Arabized
(as in Jijel) or diluted with other Berber dialects (as is true in
^ Registre des Provinces et Cités d’Afrique, éd. et trad. S.
Lancel, in Victor de Vita, Belles Lettres, Paris, 2002, p. 270,
Sitif., n° 29. Ptolémée, Géographie, IV, 2, 5, éd. C. Müller.
^ Virani, Shafique N. The Ismailis in the Middle Ages: A History of
Survival, A Search for Salvation (New York: Oxford University Press,
Sanhajas de Srayr