Traveling and Exploring Oujda Morocco
Known in Moroccan history for its strong-minded university students who aren’t afraid to protest for their cause, Oujda is Morocco’s most populated northern city. When compared to the cities southward in the Rif Mountains, Oujda has an open, liberated air to it that is comparable to Rabat. Due to its closeness to Algeria and its strategic location, different empires and governments have controlled it over the last centuries.
Spain gave up control over Oujda when France began sectioning off areas of the country that they held as a part of their protectorate. The French did more for the infrastructure of the city than Spain by building a ville nouvelle and constructing roads and a railway that continues into Algeria. When the French left Morocco, Oudja fell back into Moroccan control, where it has remained ever since. Interestingly, before Spain or France vied for parts of the country, Oudja was once a part of the Ottoman Empire and was considered their capital in North Africa. The neighboring city to the north is Melilla, which is still a part of Spain yet on Moroccan soil.
Oujda was not founded by the Moors, but by the Berbers who have lived in what is now Morocco for an inconclusive amount of time. In the early tenth century, Ziri Ben Attia founded the city and his people ruled it for centuries. Following, the Ziyanids ruled it, when the aforementioned Turkish rule began and lasted for nearly 100 years. Even as late as the 1960s, skirmishes were commonplace at the Algerian border. One such event, dubbed the Algerian Border War, saw students and other groups fighting for their beliefs. In the late 1980s, relations with Algeria calmed down and the area practiced an open-border policy that allowed nationals from each country to enter into Algeria or Morocco to enjoy what each side had to offer. With the civil war in Algeria, the borders were once again closed.
Traveling to Oujda in Morocco is a worthwhile trip. Not only will you be next to Algeria, but also you’ll be able to compare the city to other regions of Morocco, such as the Imperial Cities of Meknes, Fez, Rabat, and Marrakesh. Like most cities that were apart of the French protectorate, there is a medina (the old city) and the ville nouvelle (the new city). Each section has its own charm. The better hotels can be found in the new city. The main entrance is called the Bab El Ouabab, which is where a fall festival occurs each year after the plentiful harvest of olives. The French rebuilt the medina, so it’s not as maze-like as the one in Fez, a World Heritage Site.
Exploring the city of Oujda could take the better part of a day and it is recommended to begin near Souk El Ma, which is Arabic for Water Souk, or water market. Water in the city used to be sold from the irrigation system that can still be seen today. Now, however, you won’t have to pay for your water, but the area around it, along with covered market, near Place El Attarin is worth seeing. Getting to and from Oujda is quite easy, by train, plane, or even grand taxi. Oujda is worth a visit, and you will soon realize that its location and distance from other major cities in the country have made it such an important yet distinct part of Morocco.