Oujda: Guide to Oujda, Morocco

Lively and easy-going, Oujda is the largest city in eastern Morocco with a population nearing three-quarters of a million. It is free of much of the hassle associated with other Moroccan cities, and after the Rif it is a surprise to enter a Gallic atmosphere again. Oujda was in fact the capital of Maroc Orient, the old French protectorate zone in the east of the country.

The town was founded by the Berber chieftain Ziri Ben Attia in the 10th century. It was occupied in the 13th and 14th centuries by the Ziyanids, across the border in Algeria, and from the 18th to the late 19th century by the Ottomans in Algiers. The incorporation of the town within the Moroccan Protectorate only came about in 1912. Oujda’s proximity and prolonged association with Algeria is still tangible today: the local economy relies heavily on cross-border exchanges and even the cultural dynamism is largely influenced by neighbouring Oran, the home of the famous rai music.

As a tourist destination, Oujda has very few genuine attractions for the traveller. However, it has a rare quality not found in other Moroccan cities: it is free of hassle and nobody makes demand on your instinct of self-preservation. This is a great place to catch your breath and relax: after heading down from the Rif Mountains, or before taking an extended trip down to Figuig and the Sahara. The town has also excellent transport links to the rest of the country and close enough to the Mediterranean to make an easy trip to the seaside.