1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Blida

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BLIDA, a town of Algeria, in the department of Algiers, 32 m. by railway S.W. from Algiers, on the line to Oran. Pop. (1906) 16,866. It lies surrounded with orchards and gardens, 630 ft. above the sea, at the base of the Little Atlas, on the southern edge of the fertile plain of the Metija, and the right bank of the Wad-el-Kebir affluent of the Chiffa. The abundant water of this stream provides power for large corn mills and several factories, and also supplies the town, with its numerous fountains and irrigated gardens. Blida is surrounded by a wall of considerable extent, pierced by six gates, and is further defended by Fort Mimieh, crowning a steep hill on the left bank of the river. The present town, French in character, has well-built modern streets with many arcades, and numbers among its buildings several mosques and churches, extensive barracks and a large military hospital. The principal square, the place d’Armes, is surrounded by arcaded houses and shaded by trees. The centre of a fertile district, and a post on one of the main routes in the country, Blida has a flourishing trade, chiefly in oranges and flour. The orange groves contain over 50,000 trees, and in April the air for miles round is laden with the scent of the orange blossoms. In the public gardens is a group of magnificent olive trees. The products of the neighbouring cork trees and cedar groves are a source of revenue to the town. In the vicinity are the villages of Joinville and Montpensier, which owe their origin to military camps established by Marshal Valée in 1838; and on the road to Medea are the tombs of the marabout Mahommed-el-Kebir, who died in 1580, and his two sons.

Blida, i.e. boleida, diminutive of the Arab word belad, city, occupies the site of a military station in the time of the Romans, but the present town appears to date from the 16th century. A mosque was built by order of Khair-ed-din Barbarossa, and under the Turks the town was of some importance. In 1825 it was nearly destroyed by an earthquake, but was speedily rebuilt on a site about a mile distant from the ruins. It was not till 1838 that it was finally held by the French, though they had been in possession for a short time eight years before. In April 1906 it was chosen as the place of detention of Behanzin, the ex-king of Dahomey, who died in December of that year.

Blida is the chief town of a commune of the same name, having (1906) a population of 33,332.