Learn about the historic city of Nedroma

 The history of the city of Nedroma

The history of the city of Nedroma

Ancient history

There was certainly no Roman city on the site of Nedroma. Leon the African is at the origin of this legend, as well as the source of the false etymology of the name of Nedroma: "Ned-Roma", "rival of Rome".

It was never discovered vestiges nor inscriptions being able toattest a Roman establishment in Nedroma.

The city of Nedroma, located at the foot of Mount Fillaoussen, was built (1160 AD) by Sultan Adbdelmoumen ben Ali of the Almohad dynasty, on the ruins of a huge Berber city.

This conqueror had subdued the whole country then known as Berberia and which extends from the kingdom of Borka to Tlemcen.

The following year, having gathered a formidable army, he threw himself on the Maghreb (Morocco), where he wanted to enlarge his already vast empire. During his journey from Oran to Tlemcen, the hordes of Arabs who followed him asked permission to return to their homes. Abdelmoumen let them go, keeping only a thousand men from each tribe that he intended to leave behind in order to consolidate his conquests in the various cities he was going to occupy. When they saw this, the Almohad soldiers revolted, as they had never been able to obtain the same favor.

A secret meeting was held by the main chiefs of the army, and the death of the tyrant was resolved for the same evening. A marabout who was in the middle of the army, Ahmed El bedjaï, having heard about the plot came to reveal it to the emir, begging him to let him immolate himself for him. The latter allowed him to sleep in the "royal" tent, and the next day the corpse of the marabout was lying bloody on the bed of the prince.

The martyr was loaded on a camel, which was allowed to take, as he had recommended, himself, the direction it would want, and at the same place where she knelt, we buried his body, on his tomb was raised a mosque that still remains, near the mosque was raised a city, and in this city were abandoned the most turbulent army Almohad.

This was Nedroma.

It welcomed many Andalusian immigrants driven out by the reconquista. It became an important textile center in the 16th century.

This name is mentioned by Al-Baidaq where the words Ahl Al-Qarya Nadruma are understood to mean "people of the village, (i.e.) the Nadruma".

This passage, written in the twelfth century, would tend to show how the name of the fraction of the Nadruma tribe passed to the small town which was then their main urban settlement.

Already before that time, Nedroma is the name of the city, since Al-Bekri (in the XIIth century) calls it so and gives us a brief description of it, he qualifies it as madina, "city" and not as a simple qarya "village".

At the time of Al-Idrissi (in the 12th century), Nédroma was a flourishing city, surrounded by walls and its market was important. There is no doubt that at that time, although the two geographers we have just quoted do not mention it, Nedroma had a mosque.

An inscription on wood (today in the museum of antiquities in Algiers) was discovered, in the current great mosque of Nedroma, by René Basset in 1900; it indicates that it was an Almoravid sovereign or a prince, son or grandson of Youssef Ibn Tachfin, who, at the beginning of the twelfth century, made the pulpit, the minbar of this mosque of Nedroma, and perhaps the building itself.

We cannot say, for lack of a convincing document, if this most important Almoravid mosque of Nedroma, today in the center of the city, was rebuilt on the site of an older one, with or without minbar, or if it was a new foundation of an Almoravid prince.

Although the name of Nedroma, as the name of the city, appears only in the twelfth century in the texts, we can imagine that its site was used as a habitat for settlements since prehistoric times, because nature has endowed it with the advantages that, in this country, have always led to the grouping of men: mild climate, fertility of the soil, abundance of flowing water, dominant and easily defensible situation.

However, the prehistoric period - which gave specimens of the human industry, for the region of Maghnia, in the south and Remchi in the east of massif trari, - does not offer, for the region of Nedroma itself, any testimony of the human life in this remote time. It is true that neither the neighboring caves nor the suburbs of Nedroma have yet been explored by prehistoric specialists.

At that time and throughout the Middle Ages, Nedroma had several small ports for its maritime relations with the outside world.

The most important one, Honaïne, was also that of Tlemcen. There are still important vestiges of it today. However, the port of Honaïne was of a difficult access of Nedroma, by the very abrupt side of the mount Tdjra. This city had rather use the port of Masin.

Honaïne, 30 km to the south-east, a Phoenician port of call and a Numidian city, played the role of the port of Tlemcen in the 13th century. It was the Mediterranean route for trade with the Tafilalet and the old Sudan. There are still remains of the kharidjite city, adobe ramparts flanked by towers and the remains of a casbah.

Nothing else is known about this period, although legends abound. We can assume that great upheavals in the structure of the population took place at that time, and that families whose names evoke Moroccan origins settled in the city.

Turkish presence

Algeria (Berberia) 1515-1830.JPG

Nedroma is known for its multiple koubbas where saints and scholars from across the Mediterranean rest but it is also known for its Andalusian musical traditions

. In the 16th century, Leon the African attributed the wealth of Nedroma to the number of its weavers.

The city with its own local style reminds the old Muslim cities of the Maghreb and has 4 traditional districts, two of which are reserved for craft activities. Its plan is quite well preserved with its maze of narrow winding streets and multiple dead ends.

After the establishment of the Turkish domination, Nédroma and its region were the object of a permanent dispute between the Bey of Oran and the chorfa of Morocco.

In 1791, the Spaniards ceded Oran to the Dey of Algiers, Hassan.

The latter took advantage of this to consolidate Turkish power in the hinterland and establish Turkish authority represented in the region by the Beys Omar Agha and Ali Kara Baghli. It even became the capital of a rather important Beylik.

It is at this time that, it is said, the exactions of the janissaries stationed in Nédroma provoked a revolt of the city population. The Dey marched against Nédroma, which made its submission and was imposed an annual contribution of one hundred pieces of cotton canvas intended to make tents for soldiers.

The Dey was brought to intervene some time later, on the occasion of troubles caused in the city by the division of the inhabitants into two parties, one pro-Moroccan, the other pro-Turkish. The Dey would have made his soldiers enter the city by surprise, and would have then delivered it to the massacre and the pillage.

However, the continuous raids carried out by the Moroccans from their base in Oujda seem to have brought Nédroma closer to Turkish power in the last period. The city sided with the Dey against the Derqaoua headed by the marabout Ben Cherif at the beginning of the 19th century.

It seems that, thereafter, the Turkish power was no longer contested, until the French occupation.

French presence


In 1831, after the battles fought on the Tafna against Marshal Clauzel, Abd-el-Kader wanted to make Nédroma his western headquarters, but the inhabitants refused.

To force them, the Emir had several notables of the city arrested who had gone to the market of Mascara. Nédroma then accepted a governor from Abd-el-Kader. But when the latter released the hostages, the population rose up and chased the governor away with stones.

In April 1836, Abd-el-Kader came to establish his camp in Nédroma after the fighting against the Arlanges column. In July of the same year, after the defeat of the Sikkak, he returned to Nédroma, where his wounded were treated; but he left his camp at Ain-Kebira. The treaty of La Tafna (30 May 1837) recognized his possession of the city.

After the resumption of hostilities, a French column led by General Bedeau, accompanied by the cavalry of the Douaïrs of Mustapha Ben Smail, appeared before Nedroma. The Djemaa offered its surrender, and Bedeau refrained from letting the troops enter the city: it was on March 8, 1842

Emir Abd-el-Kader surrendered in December 1847, near Sidi-Brahim, under a palm tree that still stands, surrounded by a small fence and a commemorative plaque indicating only the year. From there, he was taken to Nemours from where, after an interview with the governor of Algeria, he embarked for exile.

The city retained a certain administrative autonomy under the direction of its Djemaa, whose president had to be approved by the colonial authorities.

The application of the sénatus-consulte in 1867 gave rise to "states of the tribes", which were established, as far as Nédroma was concerned, from 23-10-1866 to 1-3-1867. They included a census of the population, the state of the places, the measurement and the demarcation of the properties.

Nédroma was then constituted as a single douar-commune.

The only French settler living in Nédroma at that time was a man named Authier, who settled in the city with his family in 1852 and built a house. In 1867, he obtained a concession of the land where he had already built, and of 14 hectares in the plain of Nédroma.

Another European came to live in the city in 1876, Mr. Baudet, director of the Franco-Arabic school.

The douar-commune of Nédroma first depended on the military administration, in this case, the Arab Office of Maghnia. The military regime, abolished in 1870, only really gave way to the civil administration in 1880, under the growing pressure of the Algerian settlers.

On September 9, 1880, the douar-commune was erected into a mixed commune, and placed under the authority of an administrator

The school

According to the 1867 report, an Arabic-French school was created in Nédroma by decision of January 28, 1865.

The teaching staff consisted of a French director and a native assistant director.

Thirty young boys, all Muslims, belonging to the main families of the city, attend this school where they learn to read and write in French, to calculate, etc... to the great satisfaction of their parents who, almost all of whom are engaged in commerce, appreciate in a remarkable way the benefits of the instruction

On the other hand, Canal wrote in 1888: "At the time of the promulgation of the recent law on primary education, the inhabitants of Nédroma were the first to ask for the creation of a school for girls".

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