Among the several wonders that the Central Maghreb has to offer, I settled on Oran and Tlemcen in northwestern Algeria for a long weekend of cultural travel, and I couldn’t be happier!
While the colonial past of Oran is still alive in the flesh and visible in the very tissue of the city, Tlemcen’s dynastic drama is carved in the memory of stone and is imprinted in the character of its people. In Oran, cosmopolitan ghosts still roam around the city’s French, Spanish and Ottoman houses, castles and mosques respectively. In the nearby Tlemcen, al-Andalus still lives on, and vestiges of Almoravid, Almohad, Merenid and Zayanid splendor are visible wherever you go.
Whether contemplating the eternal Mediterranean from the Spanish Fortress of Santa Cruz in Oran or elbowing your way amid an ocean of faces in Tlemcen’s popular al-Kaissaria Souq, and whether you go for a stroll in the centre ville of Oran or as pilgrim to visit the mausoleum’s of Sidi Boumedien in Tlemcen, one thing holds true: it takes a lot of scratching beneath the surface to fully appreciate the charm of these two cities…one of them nostalgic and decadent; the other relaxed and confident.
I’ll let the photos do the talking: