Saïda is located in northwestern Algeria, on the southern slopes of the Tell Atlas mountain range situated on the northern fringe of the High Plateaus (French = Hauts Plateaux). The city lies along the right bank of the Wadi Saïda, protected by wooded mountains on the opposite shore that rise steeply from the valley floor to an elevation of some 4,000 feet (1,200 metres).
The city’s site has been of military importance since the construction of a Roman fort. Saïda was a stronghold of Abd al-Qadir, the Algerian national leader who burned the town as French forces approached it in 1844.
Modern Saïda was founded as a French military outpost in 1854 and once housed a regiment of the French Foreign Legion. Its growth was stimulated by the arrival of the Oran-Béchar (narrow-gauge) railway, which was incorporated in 1862.
In 2005 the population was 158,856 inhabitants. It is nicknamed the city of waters, because of its abundant underground springs.