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Bechar, Algeria.
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Bechar, Algeria. Photo: Julian Pierre.

Bechar, Algeria.
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Photo: Julian Pierre.

City in western Algeria with 150,000 inhabitants (2005 estimate), in the border zone between Sahara and the Atlas Mountains, on the foot of Bechar Mountain, at an elevation of 784 metres.
It is the capital of Bechar province with 250,000 inhabitants (2005 estimate) and an area of 162,200 km².
Bechar is a trade centre and has a variety of small-scale industries. Among its exports are leatherwork and jewelry. Bechar serves as the administrative centre for local mining, producing coal, copper, magnesium and iron. Local agriculture produces dates, cereals, vegetables, figs and almonds.
Bechar is an isolated city but has good connections with other urban centres by road and rail. There is also a national airport. Oran lies 520 km to the north.
Bechar lies close to Morocco, but the border has not been demarcated, and there is no border crossing before Beni Ounif/Figuig (Morocco), which is usually closed.
Despite its size, Bechar is still very much a desert town. Traditional houses coexist with simple, modern buildings. The traditional quarters have covered and narrow streets. A new town called New Bechar has been built 5 to the south, housing workers at the coalfields at Kenadsa. Around Bechar are wide date-palm groves which get the water from the seasonal Wadi Bechar. To the southeast of Bechar the landscape turns into true sandy desert, with the Grand Erg Occidental, the Erg er-Raoui and the Erg Iguidi. The region to the west has a landscape called chebka, numerous wadis (seasonal rivers) and ravines.

1905: The French establish a military control post between Algeria and Morocco, naming it Colomb-béchar.

By Tore Kjeilen