Algeria’s Coastal Cities
Algeria’s most important cities – Algiers, Annaba, Oran, Skikda and Mostaganem – are all located on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, which forms the country’s northern border. As the capital of Algeria, Algiers is also referred to as Alger la Blanche or El Behdja because of its white buildings glistening in the plentiful sunshine enjoyed by this North African country. Visitors to Algiers will find a city with a rich culture and interesting history, much of which is reflected in its architecture and landmarks, such as the majestic Monument of the Martyrs (Maquam E’chahid) commemorating the Algerian war for independence; Ketchaoua Mosque; the Great Mosque of Algiers; and the Roman Catholic Notre Dame d’Afrique.
The port city of Mostaganem was established in the 11th century, but it origins go back to Roman times. Its invasion and capture by the legendary Ottoman admiral Hayreddin Barbarossa in 1516 turned the settlement into an important commercial center for Mediterranean sea corsairs at the time. In 1833 Mostaganem was captured by France and remained in French possession until the independence of Algeria in 1962. The city is split by a tributary of the Aïn Sefra River, with the ancient Muslim city of Tidgit to the northeast and the modern city of Mostaganem to the southwest. The city is known for its theater, music and literature, with a number of renowned Algerian musicians, authors and poets calling Mostaganem home.
Around 80 kilometers to the west of Mostaganem lies Algeria’s second largest city, Oran. Founded in 903 by Moorish traders, the settlement was subsequently captured by the Spanish, followed by the Ottomans and back to the Spanish, before being sold to the Turks in 1792. The French took over when Ottoman rule ended in 1831, and remained until Algeria gained its independence. Landmarks in and around Oran include the Santa Cruz Fort, the Bey Othmane Mosque, Oran’s city hall, Cathédrale du Sacré-Coeur d’Oran (Cathedral of the Sacred Heart), the Great Synagogue of Oran, and the Mosque of Hassan Basha.
Founded in 1838 by the French, Skikda was built on the ruins of an ancient Phoenician settlement, which had later been occupied by the Romans. Roman occupation was brought to an end when the port was destroyed by the Vandals – an East Germanic tribe which dominated the region in 439 CE. Skikda’s museum displays some interesting items from this time period. Modern Skikda is primarily a sea port and is home to around 250,000 people.
The coastal city of Annaba is the commercial center of eastern and southern Algeria, with its economy driven by industry, finance and tourism. Visitors to Annaba, which is well known for its stunning beaches, superb hotels and lively nightlife, are mainly from European countries such as Italy and France, with ferries running between Annaba and Marseilles, transporting visitors to this fascinating North African country.