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A real “Tortuga of Mediterranean sea”; Oran is a city that over time has been able to fascinate sailors from all over the world, whose experience then poured into the Raï, a symbol of Algeria.
Oran, the city of lions and music
The original core of the city was founded in 903 AD. by Andalusian Umayyad merchants who immediately recognized the potential of this area. The name, according to tradition, is traced back to the Tamazight root “hr”, which in Berber indicates the lion, animals that would have populated this area for a long time. In just over 200 years the settlement became more and more coveted, so much so that fall into the hands of the Zayyanide dynasty first and then of the Kingdom of Spain.
The Iberians, in fact, had long since set their sights on the African coast, managing to occupy places such as Melilla and Algiers. With the capture by the Europeans in 1509, the city, as well as the whole of Algeria, became a very popular place to carry out raids and looting, so much so that most of the subsequent Ottoman attacks took place precisely at the hands of corsairs. The latter definitively conquered Oran in 1791, but were driven out once again at the beginning of the 19th century by the French.
French domination and the birth of the Raï
With the domination of the transalpines, the city experienced an enormous development, becoming second only capital in size and attracting many exiles from everywhere to its port. Oran was in fact populated, as well as by French, Jews and Arabs, by Italians, Spaniards and Amazigh Bedouins, who contributed to giving the city a unique cultural substratum of its kind.
In fact, starting from 1930, Raï music will be spread right here, a new musical genre that took full advantage of the position of the center to spread throughout the country, becoming, de facto, the Algerian music par excellence. With the independence acquired in 1962, however, this music will begin and be increasingly frowned upon by a state that identified itself primarily as “Arab and Muslim”, so much so that we will have to wait until 1985 to see the first Raï festival in Oran Today the city is one of the country’s major cultural centers and the second largest city by population.
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