Oran, the radiant
Turned towards the future, Oran kept the indescribable charm of sun-drenched Mediterranean cities. Local celebrities such as Yves Saint Laurent or Yahia Belaskri endorsed its lifestyle.
Everyone who has been there knows that Oran is one of Algeria's most beautiful cities. Modern yet attached to its past, the country's second city after Algiers proudly boasts sumptuous monuments, radiant places and most of all, a view onto the Mediterranean beyond compare. El-Bahia "the radiant" holds a never-ending facade onto the sea, that offers freedom and colour-enamoured tourists a wide array of beaches, each more beautiful than the others. And most are accessible to the public...
The word Oran, "Wahran" in Arabic, means "two lions", those last two having been hunted on the Djebel Kar mountain near Oran. Two statues guard City Hall and remind people of the episode. According to the legend, wild animals still lived in the area centuries ago. And just like lions approaching close to the suburbs, Oran was subjected to invasions over centuries. Open and cosmopolitan, the city fed on this mingling of cultures.
Of Andalusian, Ottoman and French descent, the city also held an important Jewish community until 1962, when Algeria became independent. Nowadays, even though the Great Synagogue of Oran has become the Abdellah Ben Salem Mosque, traces of Sephardic culture are to be found a little bit everywhere, especially regarding food (with meatballs, mouna - dome or crown-shaped brioche - and chorba - traditional soup - being choice examples).
The myth of Oran is based on cafés, nightclubs, a relaxed way of life and a free spirit that the city never lost and is envied by many. In the past, people came to listen to singer Reinette el Wahrania, and then to the gods of Raï music, which galvanized the youth, and helped forge its rebellion against authorities, a cultural rallying cry for the entire country. Oranese nights are at the very birth of Raï music. Today, other sounds have emerged from the heart of this ebullient city, ever as lively.
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© Text and photography courtesy of EnVols