Guest Blog: Weekend in Oran, Algeria

A big hello to all of you Don’t Kaysiao readers! I am honoured to be a guest-blogger for Don’t Kaysiao for the first time! By way of introduction, I am a friend of Euphe’s, a Singaporean, and I am currently living in Algeria. Many people have asked me, “Actually….where is Algeria ah??” So don’t feel bad if you didn’t know, you’re not the only one!!

Just a short intro on Algeria: Algeria is on the northern tip of the African continent, on the Mediterranean coast, across the sea from Spain and France. It is actually the largest country in Africa, but not the most populated (most of the country comprises of the Sahara desert!).

See map of Algeria and its neighbours.

The country is similar in demographic to Egypt, Libya, Morocco and Tunisia (its bordering neighbours) – predominantly Arab Muslim. As it used to be a French colony, the people speak both French and Arabic, and the French influence remains evident in the architecture, town planning and aspects of the culture and food, although quite a lot of it has been overtaken by Arab culture as well. Due to many years of civil war (up to the late 90s), Algeria has not enjoyed the same level of prosperity or development as its North African neighbours who were also former European colonies, such as Morocco and Tunisia.

Algeria has a long and violent history – tracing back history in a nutshell, it was territory of the Roman empire, then the Ottoman empire, was subsequently occupied by the Spaniards, and thereafter the French. Sadly, a lot of the relics of its rich history has been destroyed or has not been preserved.

A few weekends ago, my husband Nick and I took a short weekend staycation in Oran, the 2nd largest city in Algeria, and probably the most cosmopolitan in the country. It is only a 2hr drive away from where we live, but it was a breath (or rather, huge GULP) of fresh air for us to ‘get away’ from the little town we live in, where life is very basic and people extremely conservative.

El Attaf - small town in Algeria where we live

Oran is a really beautiful city with an impressive coastline of jagged mountains and cliffs. The boulevard of the old town overlooked the large port, and it made for a fascinating view with the dramatic contrast of ocean and sky, mountains and roads, cranes and containers!

We also really driving/walking around the old town because of the lovely colonial architecture of the buildings. The inner part of the old town reminded me of Paris, and as it got closer to the seafront boulevard, the architecture took on the semblance of the French Riviera towns like Nice and Cannes.

Branching out of the old town, the architecture starts to change and becomes more sparse and functional. We were quite amused to see the crazy mash of different architectural styles; some of the newer developments in fact looked so much like HDB neighbourhoods!!

Apart from an afternoon in the sun, in Oran we also enjoyed a lot of ICE CREAM. For some reason Oran has a multitude of large gelato shops with colourful chairs and umbrellas, especially along the seafront boulevard, all selling solely ice cream (they did not even sell coffee or snacks!). We also discovered the prettiest café/restaurant we had ever seen in the whole of Algeria. Although we were already super full from dinner (indian food!) we simply HAD to go in and and order something!

Cross-section of the ‘Hedgehog’ Sundae:

Thus ended our two day recce-trip/staycation in Oran. What it really was was a much needed getaway from our small town and the drudgery of a 7-day work week. Coming from a city that never sleeps like Singapore, it is hard to be away from the city for too long!

That’s all for my first guest blogpost! Look forward to contributing more in the future (hehe). Feel free to contact me via twitter @changpqr or visit my blog if you are interested to find out more about Algeria and/or my life there! :)

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