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Algiers

Algiers (ăljērzˈ) [key], Arab. Al-Jaza'Ir, Fr. Alger älzhāˈ, city (1998 pop. 1,519,570), capital of Algeria, N Algeria, on the Bay of Algiers of the Mediterranean Sea. It is one of the leading ports of North Africa (wine, citrus fruit, iron ore, cork, and cereals are the major exports), as well as a commercial center. Industries include metallurgy, oil refining, automotive construction, machine-building, and the production of chemicals, tobacco, paper, and cement. Founded by the Phoenicians and called Icosium by the Romans, the city disappeared after the fall of the Roman Empire. Many of the Moors expelled from Spain in 1492 settled in Algiers. In 1511 the Spanish occupied an island in the city's harbor, but they were driven out when Barbarossa captured Algiers for the Turks. Algiers then became a base for the Muslim fleet that preyed upon Christian commerce in the Mediterranean (see Barbary States). Under the Ottoman Empire, the city's population reached 100,000. The ruling Turkish official in Algeria, the dey of Algiers, made himself virtually independent of Constantinople in the 18th and 19th cent. As European navies repeatedly attacked Algiers, the city's prosperity, which was based on piracy, declined. When French forces captured the port in 1830, Algiers had less than 40,000 inhabitants. Algiers became headquarters for the Allied forces in North Africa in World War II, as well as for Charles de Gaulle's provisional French government. An anti-French uprising in the city in 1954 provided a major spark in the Algerian armed struggle for independence. In May, 1958, Algiers was the principal scene of a revolt by European colonists and the French army that ended the Fourth French Republic and returned de Gaulle to power. During the final months before Algeria won independence (1962), bombings by the French terrorist Organization of the Secret Army (OAS) damaged industrial and communications facilities in Algiers. In 1973 a major conference of nonaligned nations was held there. The city is divided into the newer, French-built sector, with wide boulevards and modern administrative and commercial buildings, and the original Muslim quarter, with narrow streets, numerous mosques, and the 16th cent. casbah (fortress), which was once the residence of the Turkish deys. Other points of interest in Algiers include the observatory, botanical gardens, the national library and museum, the Basilica of Notre Dame, and the Cathedral of Sacré Coeur, which was designed by Le Corbusier. The Univ. of Algiers dates back to 1909. Many of the city's European residents left in the wake of Algerian independence. Algiers has expanded to the south as a result of suburban growth.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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