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Introducing Oran

Algeria’s second city is a lively port with plenty of history and a lot of rhythm. Yet here, more than in Algiers, the consequences of the violence of the 1990s and the subsequent government neglect are plain to see, and every ship that sails north to Europe is watched by hundreds of people. Many of them long to make the journey to what they believe will be a better life, perhaps hoping to emulate Oran’s most famous émigré, fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent. Albert Camus, who found the city dull and dusty when he lived here in the 1940s, used it as the setting for his novel The Plague. But for all its problems, Oran is still fascinating, a city with a sense of its own history and culture, which has contributed much to the world, not least North Africa’s liveliest music movement, rai.