Total population
(Estimates range between 10 million[1] to 30 million[2][3]
Percentage of Turkish origin:
At least 5% of Libya's population[4]
5%-25% of Algeria's population.[5][6]
25% of Tunisia's population[6])
Regions with significant populations
Sunni Islam

Kouloughlis, also spelled Koulouglis,[7] Cologhlis and Qulaughlis (from Turkish kuloğlu "children of servants" or "children of slaves", from kul "servant/slave" + oğlu "son of") was a term used during the Ottoman period to designate the creole offspring of usually Turkish men and local Berber or Arab women in the Barbary coast, a region situated in the western and central coastal regions of North Africa.[8][9][10] The phrase comes from the fact that the rulers of the Ottoman Empire conquered much of Arab world and sent Turkish people to the conquered lands. Whilst the terminology was commonly used in Ottoman Algeria, Ottoman Libya, and Ottoman Tunisia, it was not used in Ottoman Egypt to refer to Turco-Egyptians. Unlike the Franco-Algerians (pieds-noirs) and the North African Jews, descendants of the Kouloughlis have largely integrated into their local societies after independence.

Migration to North Africa

According to the Turco-Libyan historian Orhan Koloğlu, throughout the 300 years of Ottoman rule in North Africa, the Ottoman administration ensured that Turkish soldiers from the Ocak, rather than the Janissaries, formed at least 5% of the regions population.[11] Turkish-speaking Anatolians were considered to be the ideal migrants to ensure the Turkification of the region. Furthermore, the authorities placed a ban on Turkish speakers from using the Arabic language; this allowed the Turkish language to remain the prestigious language of the region till the nineteenth century.[11] Koloğlu has estimated that approximately 1 million Ottoman soldiers from Anatolia migrated to the Cezayir Eyalet (Ottoman Algeria), the Tunus Eyalet (Ottoman Tunisia), and the Eyālet-i Trâblus Gârp (Ottoman Tripolitania), usually departing from the port of Izmir.[11]

Turkish women in North Africa

Although the term "kuloğlu" implied the term "son of", the Turkish population in North Africa was not solely made up of men. Indeed, Turkish-speaking Anatolian women also migrated to the region. Moreover, the offspring of Turkish men and Arab women would have included females too. Up until the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, upper class women in Algeria, Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia were mostly of Turkish origin. This Turkish elite held a deep kinship for the Ottoman state, which increased further during the Italo-Turkish War in favour of the Ottoman state.[12]


In 2015 the Yeni Şafak journalist Abdullah Muradoğlu suggested that at least 10 million Turks were still living in North Africa.[1] However, another 2015 estimate in the report by the Anadolu Agency correspondent Satuk Buğra Kutlugün suggests that there is a total of at least 30 million people of Turkish origin in North Africa.[2][3]



The majority of Turkish-speaking Ottoman Muslims adhered to the Hanafi school of Islam, in contrast to the majority of the North African subjects, who followed the Maliki school.[13] Today the Hanafi school is still followed by the descendants of Turkish families who remain in the region.[14] Traditionally, their mosques are in the Ottoman architectural style and are particularly identifiable from their Turkish-style octagonal minarets.[14]


Words and expressions from the Turkish language, to varying degrees, are still used in most varieties of spoken Arabic in North Africa and the Middle East. For example, in Algeria an estimated 634 Turkish words are still used today.[15] Approximately 800 to 1,500 Turkish loanwords are still used in Egypt, and between 200 and 500 in Libya and Tunisia.[16] Turkish loanwords have also been influential in countries which were never conquered by the Ottomans, such as in Morocco. Furthermore, the Turks also introduced words from the Persian language to the region, which were originally borrowed for the Ottoman Turkish language.[17]

The majority of Turkish loanwords in Arabic are used for private life (such as food and tools), law and government, and the military.


Ottoman rule left a profound influence on the cuisine of North Africa, the Middle East, and the Balkans. Hence, even today, many dishes produced in different countries throughout these regions are derived from the same name, usually a variation of a Turkish word (such as baklava and dolma).[18]

Turkish origin word Arabic Countries using the word
baklava baqlawa Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya[19]
boza büza Algeria, Egpyt, Tunisia[19]
börek Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia[19]
bulgur burgul Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia[19]
çevirme (döner) sawurma/sawirma/shawarma Egypt, Libya, Tunisia[19]
dondurma dandurma, dundurma Egypt[19]
kavurma qawurma, qawirma Algeria, Egypt[19]
köfte kufta/kofta Egypt, Tunisia[19]
pastırma bastirma Algeria, Egypt, Libya[19]
sucuk suğuk Egypt[20]
turşu torshi Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia[20]


Turkish origin word Arabic Countries using the word English translation
balta balta Egypt, Libya[20] ax
cezve cezve Tunisia[20] pot
çengel sankal/shengal Egypt, Tunisia[20] hook
kazan qazan Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia[20] cauldron
kılavuz qalawuz Egypt[20] guide, leader
tava tawwaya Egypt, Tunisia[20] pan
tel tayyala Algeria, Egypt, Tunisia[20] wire, fiber, string
tokmak duqmaq Egypt[20] mallet, door-knocker, wooden pestle
yay yay Egypt[20] straight or curved spring


Turkish origin word Arabic Countries using the word English translation
miralay mīralāy Libya colonel[21]
vapur bābūr Libya, Algeria, Tunisia boat[21]

Other words

Turkish origin word Arabic Countries using the word English translation
cüzdan dizdān Libya wallet[21]
çanta šǝnṭa Libya bag[21]
çekiç šākūš Libya Algeria hammer[21]
çeşme šīšma Libya, Tunisia tap, fountain[21]
kâǧıt kāġǝṭ Libya Algeria paper[21]
kaşık kāšīk Libya spoon[21]
kundura kindara Libya shoe[21]
şişe šīša Libya bottle[21]

Arts and Literature

The capital of the Ottoman Empire, Constantinople (Istanbul), was the central location where specialists in art, literature, and the scientists from all over the provinces would gather to present their work. Hence, many people were influenced here and would borrow from the masterpieces they came into contact with. Consequently, the Arabic language adopted several technical terms of Turkish origin as well as artistic influences.[22]


The cultural interaction between the Arabs and Turks influenced the music of the Arab provinces significantly. New maqamat in Arabic music emerged (i.e. Makam, a Turkish system of melody types), such as al-Hijazkar, Shahnaz and Naw’athar, as well as technical music terminologies.[22]


The Turks introduced the Karagöz puppet show, which concerns the adventures of two stock characters: Karagöz (meaning "black-eyed" in Turkish) and Hacivat (meaning "İvaz the Pilgrim"). Evening performances of the show are particularly popular during Ramadan in North Africa.[23]

See also



  • Abu-Haidar, Farida (1996), "Turkish as a Marker of Ethnic Identity and Religious Affiliation", Language and Identity in the Middle East and North Africa, Routledge, ISBN 1136787771 .
  • Benkato, Adam (2014), "The Arabic Dialect of Benghazi, Libya: Historical and Comparative Notes", Zeitschrift für Arabische Linguistik, Harrassowitz Verlag, 59: 57–102 
  • Benrabah, Mohamed (2007), "The Language Planning Situation in Algeria", Language Planning and Policy in Africa, Vol 2, Multilingual Matters, ISBN 1847690114 .
  • Box, Laura Chakravarty (2005), Strategies of Resistance in the Dramatic Texts of North African Women: A Body of Words, Routledge, ISBN 1135932077 .
  • Boyer, Pierre (1970), "Le problème Kouloughli dans la régence d'Alger", Revue de l'Occident musulman et de la Méditerranée, 8: 77–94 
  • Daumas, Eugène (1943), Women of North Africa: or "The Arab Woman", Indiana University Press, ASIN B0007ETDSY .
  • Hizmetli, Sabri (1953), "Osmanlı Yönetimi Döneminde Tunus ve Cezayir'in Eğitim ve Kültür Tarihine Genel Bir Bakış" (PDF), Ankara Üniversitesi İlahiyat Fakültesi Dergisi, 32 (0): 1–12 
  • İhsanoğlu, Ekmeleddin (2003), "Cross fertilization between Arabic and other languages of Islam", Culture and Learning in Islam, UNESCO, ISBN 9231039091 .
  • Jacobs, Daniel; Morris, Peter (2002), The Rough Guide to Tunisia, Rough Guides, ISBN 1858287480 .
  • Khalidi, Rashid (1991), The Origins of Arab Nationalism, Columbia University Press, ISBN 0231074352 .
  • Kia, Mehrdad (2011), Daily Life in the Ottoman Empire, ABC-CLIO, ISBN 0313064024 .
  • Lorcin, Patricia M. E. (1999), Imperial Identities: Stereotyping, Prejudice and Race in Colonial Algeria, Indiana University Press, ISBN 0253217822 .
  • Oxford Business Group (2008), The Report: Algeria 2008, Oxford Business Group, ISBN 1-902339-09-6 .
  • Pan, Chia-Lin (1949), "The Population of Libya", Population Studies, 3 (1): 100–125, doi:10.1080/00324728.1949.10416359 
  • Prochazka, Stephen (2004), "The Turkish Contribution to the Arabic Lexicon", Linguistic Convergence and Areal Diffusion: Case Studies from Iranian, Semitic and Turkic, Routledge, ISBN 1134396309 .
  • Ruedy, John Douglas (2005), Modern Algeria: The Origins and Development of a Nation, Indiana University Press, ISBN 0253217822 .
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