Oran (Wahran), Algeria
On the western Mediterranean coast of Algeria, dominated on one side by Mount Aidour, Oran is the country’s second largest city and an important port.
Founded in 903 by Andalusian sailors, it was built on the prehistoric site of Ifri (meaning caves). The port flourished under the dynasty of the Zianides of Tlemcen and relations with Mediterranean countries were close. Between 1509–1792 the territory was intermittently occupied by the Spanish, although the arrival of the Ottomans in Algeria threatened their dominance. A destructive earthquake in 1790 compelled the Spanish to leave and the Ottomans took the city the following year. The city came under French colonial rule in 1831 and an artificial port was developed. The city was occupied briefly by Allied forces in 1942. Algeria secured its independence in 1962 after which many Europeans left the city.
A principal port and industrial city, Oran’s main industries are chemicals, textiles and food processing. Its university was founded in 1965 while a science and technological university opened 10 years later. The city is connected to Algiers and Morocco by rail and has an international airport nearby. Building is under way for a 32-station tram system, scheduled for completion during 2011.
Places of Interest
The citadel of Santa Cruz was built by the Turks while the Casbah or old city holds the vestiges of Spanish occupation. The Mosque was built in 1796 to commemorate the Spanish departure. Other religious buildings include the Sacre Coeur Cathedral (1913) and the Saint Louis Church (1679). Museums include the Musée Ahmed Zabana which exhibits art, natural history and archaeology. The French writer Albert Camus based his 1947 novel La Peste (The Plague) in Oran where he had been a teacher.