The Kutama (Berber: Iktamen) were a major Berber people in northern Algeria. The Tribe was known as Ukutamanorum under the Romans, and subsequently identified as the Ucutamani under the Byzantines..
The Kutama played a pivotal role during North Africa's early Medieval period (909 - 1171). They were originators of the Fatimid dynasty, which eventually usurped the Aghlabids who controlled Ifriqiya (North Africa) between 800-909 as Abbasid Caliphate vassals. The Kotamas also formed the first Islamic Dynasty of Indigenous Berbers in the Maghreb, the Zirids (972-1148), a line founded by the Kutama General Buluggin ibn Ziri (also: Bologhine ibn Ziri, Bologhin ibn Ziri) after his defeat of the Kharijite rebellion of Abu Yazid (943-947).
Origins of the Kutama
In his book published in 1867 Ernest Mercier mentions the presence of Oulhaça in the vicinity of Annaba in Algeria today. The group of Eastern Algeria is located at the border terminals Wilayas of Bejaia and Constantine and the borders of the Aures.
The Zedjala are part of Ulhassa in the Medjana,plain bordered by the Aures. They are installed near the Aures Mountains Eiad.
Today, representatives of this branch lived in the neighborhood of Wadi Tafna west of modern Algeria in the Wilaya of Ain Temouchent. The Kutama have also settled in the Rif (in the Fatima Dynasty), this is why we find in the Rif region of Morocco Tribes akin to that Dynasty
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 Shi’i Kutama on the pilgrimage at Mecca in 893 CE. Upon meeting him, this particular group of 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 Kutama were 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 trails 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.
History of the Kutama
In the Middle Ages and the beginning of the Muslim era, that his fame was the largest.
The area is the historic home of the great Berber tribe Kutama, who played a considerable role in the Middle Ages and the Islamic Maghreb, mainly because it was behind the creation of the Fatimid empire in the tenth century the One of the greatest empires of Islamic history, which extended from Morocco to Saudi today.
Unlike other Muslim authorities, the Fatimids accepted in their administration, not on criteria of tribal, ethnic or even religious, but primarily on merit and competence. The Berbers were attracted by this dogma, they held up the Nile.
In the early tenth century Kutama formed a coalition with the Fatimids against the Abbasids. Because they were In rivalry with the Aghlabids who ruled Ifriqiya. Its members became the fiercest protectors of the young state and also constituted the main strength of his faithful army.
Abu Abd Allah ash-Chi'i, Shiite missionary meets the Kutama and paves the way for his master Ubayd Allah al-Mahdi, a Shiite Ismaili from Syria presented as the Mahdi Abu Abdullah ash-Chî'î and whose dream is to topple the Sunni power in place in Baghdad in favor of the dynasty chiite4.
In the 903 Kutama, then converted to Shiism and also to the ideology of al-Mahdi, the uprising began. March 19, 909, they permanently destroyed Aghlabids dynasty installed by the Abbasids in Ifriqya near Laribus. Six days later, they enter their capital Raqqada then founded the capital of the new Fatimid caliphate in Mahdiyah5.
The Fatimids, with their Kutama army conquered Egypt in 969 under the command of General Jawhar al-Siqilli (the Sicilian) who came to Al-Fustat in 972 countries in a disorganized and starving. They base, near the Sunni town, a new capital he named al-Qahira (Cairo), meaning "the Victorious" 4.
The Kutamas installed a military camp near Cairo, forming a formidable military power in the service of the Fatimid Caliph. They lead 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, being repressed by the Abbasids and their allies, including Egypt Saladin, who will make the Abbasids in 1171. The Siwis, Berbers of Egypt, are Kutama4.
Subsequently, the Fatimids forsook the Maghreb and settled the general Kutama Bologhin ibn Ziri Ifriqiya governor and founder of the dynasty Zirids.
Kotamas in the 21st century
The Kotamas are located in the province of Bejaia, Jijel, Skikda, Agadez, Keita[disambiguation needed], Mila and Annaba. 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), Tuaregs (Agadez, Keita, Tahoua) 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 of the dynasties who succeeded the Fatimids, such as the Ayyubids, the Hammadids, and the Almoravids, was difficult; that there is a Kotama identity today is evidence of their persistence in the face of these obstacles. From the standpoint of language, the dialect has largely been Arabized (as in Jijel) or diluted with other Berber dialects (as is true in Bejaia).
- Virani, Shafique N. The Ismailis in the Middle Ages: A History of Survival, A Search for Salvation (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007), 47.