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وهران Wahrān
Commune and city
Oran facade maritime.JPG
Official seal of Oran
The radiant " الباهية "
Location of the commune of Oran within Oran Province
Location of the commune of Oran within Oran Province
Country Algeria
ProvinceOran Province
DistrictOran District
 • PresidentSaddek Benkada (2007-2012)
 • Total64 km2 (25 sq mi)
 • Total1,674,273
 • Density26,000/km2 (68,000/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+1 (CET)

Oran ( Arabic: وهران) is a major city on the northwestern Mediterranean coast of Algeria, and the second largest city of the country.

It is the capital of the Oran Province (wilaya). The city has a population of 674,273 (2009[1]), while the metropolitan area has a population of approximately 1 million[2], making it a total population of about 2,000,000. Oran is also the second-biggest city in Algeria after Algiers. [3]. Oran is a major port, and since the 1960s has been the commercial, industrial, and educational centre of western Algeria.


Oran was founded in 903 by Moorish Andalusi traders[4] but was captured by the Spanish under Cardinal Cisneros in 1509. Spanish sovereignty lasted until 1708, when the city was conquered by the Ottomans. Spain recaptured the city in 1732. However, its value as a trading post had decreased greatly, so King Charles IV sold the city to the Turks in 1792. Ottoman rule lasted until 1831, when it fell to the French.

During French rule over Algeria, 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 which was designed to ensure the fleet would not fall into German hands. The action increased the hatred of the Vichy regime for Britain but convinced the world 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.

Before the Algerian War, 1954–1962, Oran had one of the highest proportions of Europeans of any city in North Africa. However, shortly after the end of the war, most of the Europeans and Sephardic Jews living in Oran fled to France. A massacre of Europeans, four days after the vote for Algerian independence, triggered the exodus to France. In less than three months Oran lost about half its population.

Berber-Arab-Islamic period
Start year End year Event
910 1082 Oran became a perpetual object of conflict between the Umayyads of Spain and the Fatimides of Kairouan.
1082 1145 Presence of Almoravides. In 1145, Ibrahim Ben Ta chfin perished in Oran while fighting against the already victorious Almohades troops in front of Tlemcen.
1145 1238 Presence of Almohades. 1147 marked the beginning of persecution against Oran's Jews.
1238 1509 Presence of the Zianides of Tlemcen and then the Marinid dynasty of Fes. The protection by the Emir, the customs system (tariffs), trade with Marseilles, and the Italian Maritime Republics of Genoa and Venice, with whom, in 1250, Oran signed a commercial treaty of forty year's duration, made the Oranians rich. So much so, that toward the end of the 14th century, celebrated Arab historian Ibn Khaldoun wrote the following, "Oran is superior to all other cities by its trade. It's a paradise for the unhappy one. Those who arrive poor in its walls, will leave it again rich." The city excelled in the exportation of lead, wool, skins, fine burnous, carpets, haïks, cumin, nuts, and galls, without forgetting the draft of black slaves.

Spanish period

The Santa Cruz Fort, Oran. Santa Cruz is Spanish for "holy cross"

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 four miles to the west of the 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, captured the city on May 17, 1509.

By 1554, the Turks had reach Algiers, and then governor of Oran, Count d'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 1,000' 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 thus the paternal half-brother of King Philip II), led a flotilla of 33 galleys against the Algerians.

The Spanish rebuilt the fortress of 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 kilometers in circumference, surmounted by strong towers spaced between them," with a central castle or kasbah where the Spanish governor established his headquarters. The city under Spanish rule 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 defenses in 1707, only to see his army decimated.

Ottoman period

The Bey Othmane Mosque

The Spaniards occupied the city until 1708, when the Turkish Bey, Mustapha Ben Youssef (Bouchelaghem) took advantage of the War of Spanish Succession to drive them out.

In 1732, Spanish forces, under José Carrillo de Albornoz captured the city from Bey Hassan in the Battle of Aïn-el-Turk.

In the night after October 8, 1790, a violent earthquake claimed more than 3,000 victims in less than seven minutes. Thereafter Charles IV saw no advantage in continuing the occupation of the city, which had become increasingly expensive and perilous. He initiated discussions with the Bey of Algiers. A treaty handing over the city was signed on September 12, 1792. After another earthquake had damaged the Spanish defences, Bey Ben Othman's forces took possession of Oran on October 8 of the same year. In 1796, the Pasha Mosque (in honour of Hassan Pasha, Dey of Algeria), was built by the Turks with ransom money paid for the release of Spanish prisoners after Spain's final departure. In 1830 the Beys moved their capital from Mascara to Oran.

French period

Oran's city hall, dating from the French period.

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 Denys de Damrémont occupied Oran. In September 1830 the King appointed a police chief with the function of mayor in Algiers. In September 1831, General Berthezène made Mr. Pujol, captain of cavalry in retirement and wounded at the right hand under the Empire, mayor of Oran. In 1832, at the head of five thousand men, a young Emir called Abd al-Qadir attacks Oran. In April 1833, commander-in-chief, General Boyer, leaves Oran and is replaced by the baron Louis Alexis Desmichels. The city, attacked by Abd el Kader, holds good.

  • 1836, General Létang transforms the glacis Castle-Nine into a walk which bears its name. At the beginning of 1837 General Bugeaud arrives in Oran to negotiate a new treaty (The Treaty of Tafna, May 20) with Emir Abd El-Kader. On November 14 the Emir signs a treaty with Desmichel recognizing its authority to the west of Algiers except for Oran, Mostaganem and Arzew.
  • 1845, Construction of the "Village Nègre" by General Lamoricière .
  • 1847, Following a dramatic dryness during several months, a terrible epidemic of cholera strikes and decimates a big part of the population of Oran.
  • From 1848, Oran was the prefecture of the department of the same name. Creation of the small Basin of the Old Port (four hectares). A civil hospital is built.
  • 1849, Construction of the vault of the Virgin to get rid of the cholera. The members of the first general council of Oran, named by Emperor Napoleon III, meet on December 5, 1858 with the prefecture, with as chairman Jules de Pre de Saint-Maur.
  • 1866 July 25, Creation of the oran diocesis.
  • 1880, Beginning of the construction of the Large synagogue of Oran. Oran knows a great extension starting from the place d'Armes. The ravine of l'Oued Rouina is filled.
  • 1881, Appearance of the first trams pulled by two horses.
  • 1886, Inauguration of Hotel de Ville, the City Hall.
  • 1899, First electric trams.
  • 1900, the city has 90,000 inhabitants.
  • 1907, Construction of the theatre.
  • 1909 December 14, on a ground of Sénia, the first resounding flight in Oran is carried out by Julien Serviès, with a Sommer monoplane. Next 9 January, a great meeting gathers forty thousand people, always in Sénia, in the presence of Marshal Lyautey.
  • 1913, Opening to the worship of the Cathedral Sacré Coeur.
The Great Synagogue of Oran was confiscated and turned into a mosque, after Jewish Algerians were granted French citizenship and most had emigrated.
  • 1918, Dedication of the Great Synagogue of Oran
  • 1930, Creation of new districts, less dense and more luxurious, completing the urbanisation of the first crown, in its part directed towards the interior of the country; these districts are higher Gambetta, Bon Reception, the Beavers, Médioni, Small Boulanger, Cité... This development continues overall with the creation of districts even more sumptuous, overflowing the first crown (district of Saint-Hubert, Palm trees, Point of the Day, Gambetta...)
  • 1930–32, Sénia, the Oran aérodrome, is where several world records of duration and distance in closed loop are established.
  • 1940, Beginning of the construction of the new prefecture.
  • 1940 July 3, Part of the French fleet of the Atlantic based at Mers el Kébir, is bombarded while at anchor by the British fleet coming from Gibraltar, causing the loss of three battleships: Dunkerque, Provence and Bretagne. One thousand two hundred French sailors perish. The British feared that if France totally capitulated to Hitler the French fleet could be taken over and used against them.
  • 1942 November 8, as prelude to the invasion of Italy the British and the Americans land at Arzew and Oran capitulates on November 10.
  • 1950, Oran has 256,661 inhabitants. Sixty-five percent of the total of Europeans is of Spanish origin more than the total number of Muslims in the city.
  • 1957, Construction of the municipal stage baptized "Fouques-Duparc", with a capacity of forty-five thousand places.
  • 1958 June 6, visit by French president General Charles de Gaulle.
  • 1960, First barricades.
  • 1961 August, appearance of the Organisation de l'armée secrète. The census gives the population of Oran 400,000 inhabitants: 220,000 Europeans and 180,000 Muslims.
  • 1962, Recrudescence of the attacks. One of the chiefs of the OAS, Edmond Jouhaud, is arrested on March 25. In June he sets fire to port with ten million tons of fuel darkening the sky of the city. The Algerian reaction, later known as the Oran massacre of 1962, ended the French presence in the city.



A locally popular legend tells that in the period around 900 BC, there were sightings of lions in the area. The two last felines were killed in a mountain near the city of Oran, which is now known as La montagne des Lions ("The Mountain of Lions"). In fact, there are two giant lion statues in front of Oran's city hall, hence the twin lions' mountain is Oran's symbol.

Oran today

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.

Oran has become a major trading centre for the wider area, serving Arzew, the areas oil/gas port as well as Sonatrach, the countries biggest oil and gas company. Sonatrach has built a new congress centre in Oran and in 2010 the 16th International Conference & Exhibition on Liquefied Natural Gas will be held in the city of Oran, which is expected to attract around 3,000 visitors and major companies from around the world. To accommodate all visitors, new hotels are currently being constructed and floating hotels will be used in addition.


Climate data for Oran
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 16.6
Daily mean °C (°F) 10.9
Average low °C (°F) 5.1
Precipitation mm (inches) 43.6
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.1 mm) 8.7 8.5 7.1 7.2 6.9 2.0 1.3 1.8 3.6 6.6 8.4 8.8 70.9
Source: World Meteorological Organization (UN)[5]


The folk music Raï ("opinion" in Arabic), had its beginnings in Oran. This genre of music was formulated by shepherds in the 1930s through Arab and European influences. This music was surrounded by controversy due to women's key role in public performances of the music, as well as the hedonistic lyrics about love and alcohol. This led to strict governmental control in the area which led to arrests, injuries, and assassinations.[6] Many notable Raï musicians (including Cheb Hasni, Cheb Khaled and Rachid Taha) hail from Oran. The violinist Akim el Sikameya was also born in Oran.


El Gallardo Español 1615 by Miguel de Cervantes and Albert Camus's 1947 novel The Plague take place in Oran.

Part of Arturo Pérez-Reverte's 2006 Capitán Alatriste adventure novel Corsarios de Levante (Pirates of the Levant) takes place in early 17th-century Oran. The action of the book occurs just a few years after the forced expulsion of last Moriscos (Spanish Muslims) from Valencia. There are vivid descriptions of Oran as a sun-blasted North African military stronghold, largely forgotten by the King of Spain and his advisors, whose attention is focused on the wars in the Low Countries and the treasure fleets from the Americas. Fictional hero Capitán Diego Alatriste and his ward Íñigo Balboa find Oran to be manned by an impoverished garrison of Christian Spaniards, living alongside Muslims (some fiercely loyal to Spain), and Sephardic Jews, themselves refugees from the 1492 expulsions ordered by the Catholic Monarchs (Ferdinand and Isabel).

In the movie Casablanca, the route for refugees fleeing to the Americas was Paris to Marseille, across the Mediterranean to Oran, then by train, auto or foot to Casablanca. If luckily enough to get an exit visa, on to Lisbon.

In the ITV Drama Series Hornblower Lieutenant Hornblower is sent by Captain Pellew to Oran in order to obtain supplies, only to discover that Oran is suffering from Bubonic Plague and have to spend 3 weeks on board an abandoned supply ship enroute to Gibraltar loaded with the supplies obtained from Oran, as a sort of quarantine.

Paul Bowles's 1949 novel The Sheltering Sky takes place mainly in Oran.

City districts

El Hamri

Mosque of Hassan Basha

El Hamri is a large popular district in the center of Oran known under French rule as Lamur. One finds there the football club Mouloudia d'Oran.

Neighborhood Streets

  • Avenue of Lamur
  • Street Captain-Rahou
  • Sebbalet Ayada
  • Place The Sahara
  • Gahwat Ettoubi
  • Street Staoueli
  • Street Djemaa Gazouna
  • street bougandoura
  • street belhadri smain

Sidi El Houari

The historical district is a suburb in the north of the d'Oran city. One finds l ancian Saint-Louis college there, as well as the old mosque of the Pasha dating from the XVIIe century. In this district the skin of Saint-Patron of the city in the name of "Sidi El Houari" rests;. Other tourist curiosities: one ancient prefecture of the data base Stalingrad, the Spanish vestiges dating from 16th century, and especially the Palate of the Bey d'Oran.

Oranian agglomeration

The Oranian metropolis comprises several communes.


The Municipality of Mers-El-Kebir is located north-west of Oran, about seven kilometres from the city centre. As its name indicates (The Great Port), it is a major port and has an important naval base, home to the Algerian Navy.


Aïn El Turk, whose name means Fountain of the Turks is also located at the North-West of Oran to 15 km of the center. It is a seaside town which includes several hotels and other tourist attractions.


This commune is in the South of Oran with 7 km center. It shelters industrial parks, several university institutes (Oran-Es-Sénia University, Institut of Communication, ENSET "Higher Teacher training school", CRASC "Research center in social sciences", etc.) and the international airport.


This commune depends on Bir-El-Djir and composes the suburbs Is of Oran (apart from the districts). It is the future c?ur beating Oranian agglomeration. It includes several buildings which are the seats of companies with a modernistic architecture (Sonatrach, in construction), the new CHU "November 1, 1954", the Palate of the Congresses, l University of sciences and technology (conceived by the Japanese architect Kenzo Tange (1913–2005)), l'Institut of medical sciences, and the Court of Justice. This commune is the urban extension to the East of the town of Oran, to 8 km of the center, with a population of 118.000 the projects: Olympic stage of 50.000 places, its name means Clay Pit.


This is a small peaceful city in the Western extreme of the metropolis, having its fans Misserghin and its Tour operators Misserghin-Tours in order to promote tourism in the radiant and green area of this locality.


Oran has numerous hotels in all categories, from luxury to basic, as well as many restaurants offering Algerian specialities and other foods. Tourists will also find a variety of cinemas, arts centres, the regional theatre, an open-air theatre, the Museum, the historic city centre of Oran, the district of Sidi El Houari, the municipal gardens, Médina Djedida with its artisanal products, the cathedral, Djebel Murdjadjo, and nearby seaside resorts. International airport Es-Senia is 7.4 miles from the town centre. One can also reach Oran by ferries from the ports of Marseilles, Sète, Alicante and Almería, via the national company Algérie Ferries.


The city has limited means of transport, which do not cover sufficiently the non-urban zones. The entreprise ETO (Company of Oranian Transport) acquired new buses burning coal. There is an extensive network of "gypsie" taxis in the City. Work will start in 2008/9 and will last approximately two to three years, to deliver the first line of the tram in 2009. It should comprise 31 stations, distributed on 17,7 kilometers going to Es-Sénia, in the South, jusqu'à Sidi Maarouf, with l'Est, while passing by the centre town The tram should serve the locality d'Haï Sabbah, l University of Sciences and Technology (USTO), the Crossroads of the Three Private clinics, the Law courts, Dar El Baïda, the Plate-Saint Michel, the Place of the 1st November, Saint-Anthony, Boulanger, Saint-Hubert, the 3rd Ring road and finally l University Es-Sénia. The Oran Es Senia Airport, for domestic and international flights. Oran Es Senia Airport serves both, domestic and international flights, with frequent connections to the capital Algiers, served by the public airline company Air Algerie. The same company also has flights to many French cities (Marseille, Paris, Lyon, etc.) and other European and EMEA cities. The Es Senia Airport also serves passengers from most smaller towns in proximity to Oran (Mostaganem, Arzew, etc.). The airport building is a fairly limited construction and does not operate on a 24-h basis.

International Marathon

Oran held its first international marathon on November 10, 2005. The event, sponsored by Toyota of Algeria, attracted runners from Morocco, Libya, Spain, France, and Kenya. The marathon served to publicize the health benefits of running and to provide a novel form of public entertainment for the city's residents.

International relations

See also: List of twin towns and sister cities in Algeria

Twin towns — Sister cities

Oran is twinned with:


  1. Wilaya d'Oran -DPAT- Annuaire statistique 2009 [1]
  2. Abdellah Messahel, Une périurbanisation officielle dans un site contraignant..., in Space, populations, societies 2008/1 [2]
  3. About Oran—from the city's website.
  4. Jewish community of Oran
  5. "Weather Information for Oran".
  6. Joan, Gross (2002). Jonathan Xavier and Renato Rosaldo (ed.). "Arab Noise and Ramadan Nights: Rai, Rap and Franco-Maghrebi Identities" The Anthology of Globalization: A Reader. Oxford: Blackwell.
  7. "Sister Cities Home Page". eThekwini Online: The Official Site of the City of Durban

External links

ar:وهران bn:ওরান br:Oran bg:Оран (град) ca:Orà cs:Oran cy:Oran da:Oran de:Oran et:Oran es:Orán (Argelia) eo:Orano fr:Oran ko:오랑 hr:Oran bpy:ওরান id:Oran it:Orano he:אוראן ka:ორანი la:Oran lad:Oran lt:Oranas hu:Orán mk:Оран arz:وهران ms:Oran nl:Oran (stad) ja:オラン no:Oran pl:Oran pt:Orã ro:Oran (oraș) ru:Оран sco:Oran sr:Оран fi:Oran sv:Oran tr:Oran, Cezayir uk:Оран vi:Oran wa:Waradinne war:Oran zh:瓦赫蘭