Oran is a major city on the Mediterranean coast in northwestern Algeria. The name comes from the Berber word Uhran meaning The Lions.
During French rule, Oran was a prefecture in the Oran département. It is now the capital of the smaller Oran Province . The city has a population of 683,250 , while the metropolitan area has a population of approximately 2 million, making it the second largest city in Algeria. 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 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 . In July 1940, the British navy shelled French warships in the port after they refused a British ultimatum designed to ensure they would not fall into German hands. The action increased the hatred of the Vichy regime for Britain but convinced the world of the British will to fight on alone against Nazi Germany and its allies. The puppet 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.
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 , led a flotilla of 33 galleys against the Algerians.
The Spanish rebuilt the fortress of Santa Cruz 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.
The Spaniards occupied the city until 1708, when they were driven out by Turkish Bey Mustapha Ben Youssef . The Spanish returned in 1732 when the armada of the Duke of Montemar was victorious 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.
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.