Fortified seaport and commercial and manufacturing centre in Algeria, 5 km/3 mi from the port of Mers-el-Kebir; population (2008 est) 680,950. Industries include cigarettes, iron, plastics, textiles, footwear, and processed food; the port also trades in wine, grain, wool, vegetables, citrus fruits, and native esparto grass. Natural gas is brought to the city via a pipeline from the Sahara, and hydrocarbons are exported. Oran is linked by rail to Algiers, Béchar, and Morocco, and there is an international airport at nearby Es-Senia. The University of Oran was established in 1965 and the University of Science and Technology of Oran dates from 1975.
History Oran was part of the Ottoman Empire, except when it was under Spanish rule 1509–1708 and 1732–91. It was abandoned by Spain after being largely destroyed by earthquakes. It was occupied by France in 1831. After the surrender of France to Germany in 1940, the French warships in the naval base of Mers-el-Kebir nearby were put out of action by the British navy to prevent them from falling into German hands. Most of the European population left the city during the War of Independence (1954–62). The municipal museum is now housed in the Santa Cruz fortress built in the 16th century during the period of Spanish rule.
The events of July 1940 In July 1940, after the Hitler–Pétain armistice, the British government gave a six-hour ultimatum to French ships at Oran. They were offered, but rejected, conditions which were intended to prevent Germany and Italy from using them. A British battle squadron under Admiral Somerville attacked them, assisted by aircraft. One French battleship was sunk and another damaged, one battle cruiser was damaged, and two destroyers and a seaplane carrier were set on fire and sunk. There were only slight British casualties. The Pétain government broke off diplomatic relations with Britain as a result of this action.