An Afternoon on Oran's Corniche

Sunday, December 24, 2017 | Oran, Algeria (map)

"Harraaaaaaga... babor wla felloucaaaa ?"

"Harraaaaaaga... babor wla felloucaaaa ?"

Emigrating, yes, but in a ship or a rowboat?

One of the many teens shuffling along Oran's seaside corniche, hair gelled heavenward and listless friends in tow, belted out this refrain over and over as he and his posse rambled down the boardwalk.

My tie loosened and suit rumpled after a day of meetings, I sat on a bench, squinting through the evening sun's rays, observing the passers by.

Over the course of several visits to Oran this year, I spent my free time wandering the city and shooting pictures of its many textured corners. But more than any other, I returned repeatedly to the palm-lined corniche that overlooks the port. It wasn't the place itself that continually drew me back, but the people: the couples strolling arm in arm, the aimless young men, the hawkers of miscellany, the selfie-taking teens, and many more.

On this particular afternoon, I sat down with a chwarma sandwich and discretely slipped my old Rolleicord from my briefcase, waiting to see who would pass.

This Is Oran: Radiant, Rhythmic, and Raw

Saturday, December 9, 2017 | Oran, Algeria (map)

Oran's central train station is just one vestige of its colonial past.
Aboard the westbound train from Algiers, it takes a full morning to reach Oran—plenty of time to ponder all the usual surroundings—the scenery, the fellow passengers, your shoes—before working your way down the list until you're pondering the very air around you.

It's an especially vivid air, punctuated by a rhythmic clanking that keeps time alongside the rails' steady, high-pitched hiss. Above the seat backs, the passengers' heads undulate side-to-side in unison as they murmur prayers, rustle through the newspaper, or cluck over children. A thin film of dust tints both the landscape and the car's interior a faint goldenrod. Lacy airborne seeds from a local weed waft through the carriage, glistening and leaping as one each time a mustachioed businessman or anxious mother returns from the cafĂ© car. As the door crashes open, the wind sweeps in a pungent marriage of manure from the freshly plowed hillsides and the acrid tang of hot steel—an odor from the depths of an industrial cavern somehow misplaced here amid the blinding midday sunlight.