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Oran is a port city in the northwest of Algeria. It is considered the cradle of raï music. Fort Santa Cruz, an Ottoman citadel rebuilt by the Spaniards, sits atop Mount Murdjadjo; it offers views of the bay below. The Chapel of Our Lady of Santa Cruz, with whitewashed walls, is nearby. It was erected in honour of its namesake after a cholera epidemic. In La Blanca, the old Turkish town is the Hassan Pasha Mosque. The latter has an octagonal minaret.

  • Area: 2,121 km²
  • Weather: 17°C, wind SW at 16 km/h, 52% humidity (weather.com)
  • Population: 1.468 million (2019)
  • Mayor : Sadek Benkada
  • Neighbourhoods: Akid Lotfi, Maraval, Hai El Menzah, Derb, MORE
  • University: Oran 1 Es-Senia University

About this city {Wikipedia}

Oran (Arabic: وَهران, romanized: Wahrān) is a major coastal city located in the north-west of Algeria. It is considered the second most important city of Algeria after the capital Algiers, due to its population and commercial, industrial, and cultural importance. It is 432 km (268 mi) west-south-west from Algiers. The total population of the city was 803,329 in 2008, while the metropolitan area has a population of approximately 1,500,000 making it the second-largest city in Algeria.


The word Wahran comes from the Berber expression wa – iharan (place of lions). A locally popular legend tells that in the period around AD 900, there were sightings of Barbary lions in the area. The last two lions were killed on a mountain near Oran, and it became known as la montagne des lions (“The Mountain of Lions”). Two giant lion statues stand in front of Oran’s city hall, symbolizing the city.



During the Roman Empire, a small settlement called Unica Colonia existed in the area of current Oran, but this settlement disappeared after the Arab conquest of the Maghreb.

Present-day Oran was founded in 903 by the azdaja and ajissa berbers of the Maghrawa confederation who lived the area and eventually founded the modern city of Oran. the city enjoyed a period of prosperity under the Almohad Caliph Abd al-Mu’min for a lengthy period of time where he built thirty vessels to connect it with Andalasia. It endured a long, prosperous reign under the zayyanid of tlemcen and used their ports as a key out outlet to spain in particular. It was captured by the Castilians under Cardinal Cisneros in 1509, and Spanish sovereignty lasted until 1708, when the city was conquered by the Algerians during the siege of Siege of Oran (1707–1708). Spain recaptured the city in 1732. However, its value as a trading post had decreased greatly, so during the reign of King Charles IV the city was recaptured in 1790-1792 by a coalition of Algerian troops against Spain which resulted in victory for the bey of Oran despite the many attempts in 1563. The beylik lasted until 1831, when the city fell to the French.

Under French rule during the 19th and 20th centuries, Oran was the capital of a département of the same name (number 92). In July 1940, the British navy shelled French warships in the port after they refused a British ultimatum to surrender; this action was taken to ensure the fleet would not fall into German hands, as the Nazis had defeated France and occupied Paris. The action increased the hatred of the Vichy regime for Britain but convinced the world that the British would fight on alone against Nazi Germany and its allies. The Vichy government held Oran during World War II until its capture by the Allies in late 1942, during Operation Torch.

Also, during French rule, Jews were encouraged to modernize and take on jobs they had not before including agriculture, while Muslims were forced out of the city and their ancestral fertile lands were confiscated and given to Colons. Jews In the city were allowed to join the French Army starting October 24, 1870, while Muslims were forced to do military service. Algerian Jews were granted citizenship Algerian Muslims were not. French Jews would soon be targeted after not choosing to side with the Algerian Muslims who fought for independence against France.

Before the Algerian War, 1954–1962, Oran had one of the highest proportions of Europeans of any city in North Africa. In July 1962, after a ceasefire and accords with France, the FLN entered Oran and were shot at by a European. A mob attacked pied-noir neighborhoods in response to the attack and massacred thousands of Europeans in Oran; 453 have been said to have “disappeared.” This triggered a larger exodus of Europeans to France, which was already underway. Shortly after the end of the war, most of the Europeans and Algerian Jews living in Oran fled to France. In less than three months, Oran lost about half its population. This population loss is similar to the Jews as many fled after siding with France in the Algerian War for Independence. As the war progressed, those who supported independence in Algeria threatened those who sided with France causing these people to flee.

Religious history

With its location as the closest port to Spain and its prominence on the Mediterranean, Jewish refugees first immigrated to Oran to flee persecution and conversion to Christianity in Spain in 1391. This refuge brought other religious refugees that included both Jews again and Muslims in both 1492 and 1502. On October 24, 1870, with the French dominance, Algerian Jews were given French citizenship with the Crémieux Decree. Later, despite a World War II sentiment that favored acceptance, Oran still had a history marked by intolerance. There was a decrease in the Jewish population as Muslims were the only group granted citizenship protection in 1963, one year after Algerian independence.

Islamic dynasties (910–1509)

Spanish period (1509–1708, 1732–1792)

Before the Spaniards, the Portuguese launched a failed expedition to capture the city in July 1501. Four years later, the Spanish took Mers-el-Kébir, located just six kilometres (four miles) west of Oran. Thus began the first organized incursions against the city which, at the time, numbered 25,000 inhabitants and counted 6,000 fueros. Count Pedro Navarro, on the orders of Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros, finally captured the city on May 17, 1509. The occupying forces set fire to the books and archives of the town.

By 1554, the Turks had reached Algiers. The governor of Oran, Count Alcaudete, allied himself with Moroccan Sultan Mohammed ash-Sheikh against them. Nine years later, in 1563, Álvaro de Bazán, Marquis de Santa Cruz, built the fort of Santa-Cruz, strategically placed at the top of a mountain, l’Aïdour, more than 300 m (1,000 ft) above the sea, directly to the west of the city. Pedro Garcerán de Borja, Grand Master of the Order of Montesa, was captain of Oran when, on July 14, 1568, John of Austria (the illegitimate son of Charles I and paternal half-brother of King Philip II), led a flotilla of 33 galleys against the Algerians.

In April 1669 the Spanish governor, the 6th Marquess of Los Vélez, expelled all the Jews who lived in Oran and Mers El Kébir sending them to be resettled in either Nice, or Livorno.

The Spanish rebuilt Santa Cruz Fort to accommodate their city governors. “The fortifications of the place were composed of thick and continuous walls of over two and a half km in circumference, surmounted by strong towers spaced between them,” with a central castle or kasbah where the Spanish governor had his headquarters. Under Spanish rule, the city continued to grow, requiring enlargement of the city walls. In spite of the improved fortifications, the city was the object of repeated attacks. Notable in this regard, Moroccan Sharif Moulay Ismail tried to force his way past the defences in 1707, only to see his army decimated. In 1739, trade with the surroundings was forbidden fop years due to the plague. In 1744, king Philip V asked the governor Tomás du Rollet de la tour for dromedaries to replenish the stock at the Royal Palace of Aranjuez. However, the former bey of Oran had banned trade with the Spaniards and those dromedaries gradually sent to the king had been sold by thieving tribesmen. Most of the maintenance of the place was paid by the bull of the Crusade, a contribution of the Spanish Catholic church.

Beylikal period (1708–1732, 1792–1831)

The Spanish occupied the city until 1708, when the Bey of Mascara, Mustapha Ben Youssef (Bouchelaghem), vassal of the Deylik of Algiers, and who was an Arabized Berber from the Mascara region took advantage of the War of Spanish Succession to drive the Spanish out.

In 1732, Spanish forces returned under José Carrillo de Albornoz, capturing the city from Bouchelaghem. Spain maintained its hold over Oran for the next six decades.

In the night after October 8, 1790, a violent earthquake claimed more than 3,000 victims in less than seven minutes. Charles IV saw no advantage in continuing the occupation of the city, which had become increasingly expensive and perilous. He initiated discussions with the Dey of Algiers.

Siege of Oran and Mers el-Kébir (1790-1792)

After another earthquake damaged the Spanish defences, the forces of the new Bey of Oran, Mohamed el-Kébir besieged the city. By the end of 1790, there was a clear Algerian advantage. The Spanish, not wanting to risk their troops, signed an agreement with the Algerians on 12 September in Algiers, and on 12 December in Madrid, which recognized Algerian control over the city. By February all Spanish troops evacuated. The capital was moved there the same year. In 1792, the Bey settled a Jewish community there. In 1796, the Pasha Mosque (in honour of Hassan Pasha, Beylerbey of Algiers) was built by the Bey with ransom money paid for the release of Spanish prisoners after Spain’s final departure.

French period (1831–1962)

The town of 10,000 inhabitants was still in the possession of the Ottoman Empire when a squadron under the command of captain Bourmand seized el-Kébir on December 14, 1830. The city was in a wretched state. On January 4, 1831, the French commanded by General Damrémont occupied Oran. In September 1831, General Berthezène appointed Mr. Pujol as mayor of Oran; he had been captain of cavalry in retirement and was wounded in the right hand under the Empire.

In 1832, leading a force of five thousand men, the young Emir Abd al-Qadir attacked Oran. In April 1833, commander-in-chief, General Boyer, was replaced by the baron Louis Alexis Desmichels. The city’s defenders, under attack by Abd al Qadir, held their ground.

In World War II, Oran was one of the landing points in Operation Torch, the first American action in the Europe-North Africa theatre in November 1942. The Task Force suffered some damage to its fleet, trying to land in shallow water, but the enemy ships were sunk or driven off, and Oran surrendered after heavy fire from British battleships.

Since independence (1962)

Due to the exodus of Pieds-Noirs, the Cathédrale du Sacré-Cœur d’Oran was converted into a public library in 1984. Further information: Aubert Library of Oran

Today, Oran is a major port and a commercial centre, and has three universities. The old quarter of Oran has a casbah and an 18th-century mosque. The modern section of Oran is referred to as La Ville Nouvelle and was built after 1831; this section contrasts with the older section, La Blanca.



Oran features a semi-arid climate (Köppen climate classification BSk/BSh). Oran’s climate does show influences of a Mediterranean climate; however, the combination of the city’s relatively high average annual temperature and relatively low annual precipitation precludes it from falling under that climate category. Oran averages 326 mm (13 in) of precipitation annually, the bulk of which falls between November and May. Summers are the warmest times of the year, with average high temperatures in the warmest month (August) approaching 32 degrees Celsius. Winters are the coolest times of the year in Oran, with high temperatures in the coolest month (January) at around 17 degrees Celsius.


As Oran is located in Northern Algeria, it faces the threat of earthquakes that can cause damage. However, the last major earthquake was in 1790; 3,000 people died as a result. Many of the existing older buildings in the city have been reinforced, and newer construction is designed to withstand earthquakes. While the city dates back to the 900s, the oldest remaining buildings are from the French period in the 1800s making it easier to reinforce these buildings.

Further reading:

Map View of Oran


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