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Oran

ORAN

largest urban center in western algeria (estimated pop. 693,000, 1998).

On a bay of the Mediterranean Sea, Oran is the administrative, commercial, and educational hub of the petrochemical complex of Arzew-Bethioua (50 km [30 mi.] to the east).

Oran was founded in 903 c.e. by Muslim merchants from Andalusia searching for an alternative port to Ceuta on the West African gold route. The waters of the Ra's al-Ayn river supported the foundation of a sizable walled city with a citadel (qasaba, or Casbah). Muslim CORSAIRS succeeded the merchants at the end of the fourteenth century, then were ousted in 1509 by Christian Spaniards. The Ottomans fiercely opposed Spain's expansion and incorporated Algeria into their empire, but it was only in 1791 that Turkish troops wrested Oran from the Spanish.

The French entered western Algeria in 1831 and occupied Oran, which had some 3,000 Muslim and Jewish inhabitants. European settlers far outnumbered Muslim rural migrants prior to World War I; it was only after World War II that the indigenous population rose to about 40 percent of a total of 413,000 inhabitants.

In the 1840s a canal system and a safe port with breakwaters were constructed. Administrative, commercial, and cultural functions shifted from the Muslim city to the east, along an east-west axis. The Muslim population was forcibly removed in 1845 to its own quarter in the south, resulting in de facto segregation of European settlers and Muslims well into the twentieth century. An urban streetcar system and a main train depot were in place around the turn of the century, an airport was constructed in the 1920s, and paved streets appeared by the 1930s.

During the colonial period Oran was the leading exporter of agricultural goods (red wine, olive oil, soft wheat, citrus, artichokes, tobacco, esparto, wool, and leather). There was little interest in industrialization; apart from mostly small construction and food-processing enterprises, two steelworks were financed by foreign capital. Trade disruptions during World War II encouraged the establishment of import-substitution industries (bottles, containers, cement, and hardware), but these struggled to survive after the war. The Plan of Constantinople (1958), with which France sought to jump-start industrialization in response to the Algerian War of Independence (19541962), created jobs in public works projects but did not enlarge the industrial sector.

After independence Algeria's government embarked on a gigantic program of state industrialization. In 1967 the Oran region was selected to become the main center for the exportation of hydrocarbons and the production of industrial chemicals. These basic industries were supplemented with factories for agricultural machinery and consumer goods. Private investment went primarily into the textile, plastic, food-processing, metalworking and footwear sectors. By the early 1980s the industrial base had grown to 112 state and 284 private businesses with 10 or more employees and total workforces of 32,000 (state) and 10,000 (private).

When the European settlers left Algeria in 1962, they abandoned close to two-thirds of the housing stock of Oran. By 1970 housing was scarce, however, and during the 1970s and 1980s some 12,000 new apartments (about a quarter of what was needed) were constructed. In spite of the periodic razing of shantytowns and the forced return of the inhabitants to their villages of origin, by the mid-1980s about one-third of the rural population had permanently settled in Oran and the other cities of the industrial region. The rural migrants who flooded the city found jobs primarily in construction, low levels of administration, retail, private industry, and the informal sector. Jobs in state industries typically were open only to qualified older workers.

Given the lack of convenient housing, the commute between residence and workplace often is as far as 30 miles (50 km), mostly by public bus or company van. Nearly half of Oran's industrial work-force works outside the city. The new suburbs require additional trips for shopping and entertainment, given the continued concentration of retail shops, services, and entertainment in the city center. On the other hand, many local and regional administrative offices, a new technical university, and vocational colleges have been moved to the suburbs, evening out the distribution of traffic.

In the center of Oran there has been a proliferation of bars, most of which sell coffee and tea. During the interwar period, they were the birthplace of rai, a music of bedouin immigrants that has become Algeria's rock 'n' roll. Also, the mixture of apartment buildings and small commercial and crafts establishments, typical of European inner cities prior to World War II, is still largely intact. Traditional food, clothing, and kitchenware shops are clustered in downtown Oran, and Medina Jadida (a kilometer to the south).

In downtown Oran, upscale residences, professional practices, airline offices, banks, restaurants, and furniture, jewelry, perfume, leather, and record shops coexist with less expensive apartment buildings, retail businesses, and bars as well as mechanical and electrical repair shops (the latter mostly on the periphery). The inner city is no longer the place where established families and rural migrants are neighbors, as was the case in the 1960s, but they still share the same neighborhoods.

The cancellation of the first national elections in 1992 and the return to de facto military rule slowed the process of devolution. In the struggle between the military and Islamists during the 1990s, Oran experienced less violence and terrorism than did Algiers; yet the paralysis was severe. Security under President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, inaugurated in 1999, has improved.


Bibliography


Thompson, Ian B. The Commercial Centre of Oran. Glasgow, 1982.

peter von sivers

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"Oran." Encyclopedia of the Modern Middle East and North Africa. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Oran

Oran (ôräN´), city (1998 pop. 692,516), capital of Oran prov., NW Algeria, a port on the Gulf of Oran of the Mediterranean Sea. One of the country's leading ports, it ships wheat, wine, alcohol, vegetables, meat, wool, cigarettes, and iron ore. The city, surrounded by vineyards and market gardens, is a commercial, industrial, and financial center. Oran is divided into a modern, French-style section and an old Spanish-type quarter with a casbah (fortress). Its frequently visited 18th-century mosque was bombed in 1995 by Islamist militants who objected to the adoration of saints, a practice forbidden by Islam.

The site of modern Oran has been inhabited since prehistoric times, but the city's founding is generally attributed to Moorish Andalusian traders in the 10th cent. Oran's subsequent prosperity, based on commerce, was interrupted when the Moors began to engage in piracy, thus provoking reprisals from Spain. Spanish forces captured and fortified the city in 1509 and held it until the Turks arrived in 1708. Spain recovered Oran in 1732. The city was successfully besieged (1791) by the district governor of Mascara and was made a provincial capital of the Ottoman Empire.

French troops captured Oran in 1831 and began to develop it as a naval base, along with nearby Mers-el-Kebir. The building of the port and the construction of railroads linking Oran with the interior made the city the economic capital of W Algeria in the late 19th cent. Oran, held by Vichy France during World War II, fell to the Allied forces in Nov., 1942. Civil strife ravaged the city in the late 1950s; the French terrorist OAS (Secret Army Organization) and the Algerian nationalist FLN (Front for National Liberation) perpetrated violence against civilians. There followed a general exodus of the European population, which had been the largest, proportionally, of any North African city. The city provided the setting for Albert Camus's novel The Plague.

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"Oran." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Oran

Oran (Wahran) City and seaport on the Gulf of Oran, nw Algeria. Founded in the 10th century, it was taken by Spain from its Arab rulers in 1509. Captured by Ottoman Turks in 1708, it was retaken by Spain in 1732. Under French rule from 1831 to 1962, it developed as a naval base. It is Algeria's second-largest city. Industries: iron ore, textiles, chemicals, cereals, wine, fruit. Pop. (1994) 692,516.

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"Oran." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 19 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Oran

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