Oran — History

[From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia]

Oran (Arabic: وهران‎ Arabic pronunciation: [Wahrān], Berber: Wehran, ) is a major city on the northwestern Mediterranean coast of Algeria, and the second largest city of the country. It is closely associated with its neighboring city, Aïn Témouchent. Located north-west of Algeria, 432 kilometres (268 miles) from the capital Algiers.

It is the capital of the Oran Province (wilaya). The city has a population of 759,645 (2008[1]), while the metropolitan area has a population of approximately 1,500,000,[2] making it the second largest city in Algeria.[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 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.

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.

Arabo-Berber Islamic period

910 1082 Oran became a perpetual object of conflict between the Umayyads of Spain and the Fatimides of Kairouan.
1082 1145 Presence of Almoravids. In 1145, Ibrahim ibn Tashfin perished in Oran while fighting against the already victorious Almohad troops in front of Tlemcen.
1145 1238 Presence of Almohads. 1147 marked the beginning of persecution of 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 years’ 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 export of lead, wool, skins, fine burnous, carpets, haïks, cumin, nuts, and galls, as well as the draft of black slaves.
Spanish period

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 (6.4 km) 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 reached Algiers, and then 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 1,000 ft (300 m) 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.

In April 1669 the Spanish governor, the Marquis del los Vélez expelled all the Jews who lived in Oran and Mers El Kébir[5] sending them to be resettled in either Nice, and Livorno.

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 defences in 1707, only to see his army decimated.

Ottoman period

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 1792, the Ottomans settled a Jewish community there. 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

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 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 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 .

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 drought lasting 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 Jules de Pre de Saint-Maur as chairman.
1866 July 25, Creation of the oran diocesis.
1880, Beginning of the construction of the Large synagogue of Oran. Oran builds a great extension starting from the place d’Armes. The ravine of l’Oued Rouina is filled.
1881, Appearance of the first horse-drawn trams.
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, the first flight in Oran is carried out by Julien Serviès on a Sommer monoplane at Sénia,. Next 9 January, a great meeting gathers forty thousand people, also in Sénia, in the presence of Marshal Lyautey.
1913, Opening to the worship of the Cathedral Sacré Coeur.

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 named «Fouques-Duparc», with a capacity of forty-five thousand.
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 states 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.

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