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WESTERN SAHARA


Location - North Africa (south of Morocco); Capital - Laayoune; Population - 500,000; Currency - Moroccan Dirham

I took an overnight bus from Marrakech to Smara in Western Sahara, via Agadir, in December 2009.

Western Sahara is a former Spanish territory occupied by Morocco. In 1975, before the Spanish left in 1976, Morocco and Mauritania moved in. When Mauritania moved out in 1978 Morocco took control. Western Sahara's Polisario Front, backed by Algeria, still campaigns for independence for the Saharawi population. The UN has called for a referendum on self-determination. More background & history here. Info on the 2700km wall (aka Moroccan Wall; The Berm) dividing Western Sahara here.

Most world maps show Western Sahara as an independent country occupied by Morocco, while all Moroccan maps swallow it whole within its territory.

 

mornoteWestern Sahara uses the Moroccan Dirham

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara6From Hotel Amine take a peek at the Spanish-built oval domes of the military barracks - Smara

 

 

westsahara8A portrait of Mohammed VI, King of Morocco, stands at the entrance to the military barracks - Smara

 

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westsahara21Women in Saharawi dress - Smara

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara20The colourful Saharawi dress remind me more of Mauritania than Morocco - Smara

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara1Ma el Ainin's Palace lies on the west side of Smara. I couldn't find anyone to let me in.

 

 

westsahara2Ma el Ainin's Palace - Smara

 

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westsahara9Smara's main street is Avenue Hassan II

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara10More military remnants of the Spanish era - Smara

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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westsahara11Though there's not much to see I enjoyed the town, with its relaxing roadside cafes and evening souq/market - Smara

 

 

westsahara12Local children on the streets of Smara

 

 

westsahara13Decaying buildings in a Smara sidestreet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara14..And a more colourful one - Smara

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara15One of Smara's arches

 

 

westsahara17Walk through the arch to see this mosque - Smara

 

 

westsahara16One of the shops on Avenue Mohammed V - Smara

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara18Another portrait of King Mohammed VI, outside the Province, Smara

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara22Many of the oval-domed buildings are now residential homes - Smara

 

 

westsahara24Join the locals and have a wander around the evening souq - Smara

 

 

westsahara29Though not strictly part of Western Sahara, the small coastal town of Tarfaya, north of Laayoune, was a Spanish protectorate

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara30It's got a pretty good beach - Tarfaya

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara31Tarfaya is known for the Casa Mar, a fort built by Scottish merchant Donald Mackenzie following his arrival in 1879

 

 

westsahara27The abandoned Casa Mar (also called Dar Mar) - Tarfaya

 

 

westsahara32On the beach is a monument to Aeropostale, the airmail service. Tarfaya was a staging post for Aeropostale's pilots, among them pilot & novelist Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara33Outside the Antoine de Saint-Exupery museum is a painting of the Green March.
In 1975 King Hassan II instigated a march of 350,000 Moroccans from Tarfaya into Spanish Sahara (Western Sahara) to claim it for Morocco - Tarfaya

 

Wikipedia 'Green March' entry here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara34More colourful patterns - Tarfaya

 

 

westsahara35Unsurprisingly most of the town's streets are very sandy - Tarfaya

 

 

westsahara36The streets of Tarfaya

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara37Moroccan tajines are usually made up of potatoes, vegetables, lime, meat or fish and served mouth-burningly hot. Lovely! Tarfaya

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara38Fishing boats coming back to shore - Tarfaya

 

 

westsahara42The cathedral in the lower town, Laayoune

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara43The square opposite the cathedral - Laayoune

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara44Let's have some more oval-domed roofs - Laayoune

 

 

westsahara46The lower town leads to the Seguiat el Hamra, a valley containing lagoons and a variety of birdlife - Laayoune

 

 

westsahara47Birds in the water at Seguiat el Hamra - Laayoune

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara49It could be a beautiful area but it's used as a rubbish tip - Seguiat el Hamra, Laayoune

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara50'Ceda el Paso' - A remnant of the Spanish era in the lower town, Laayoune

 

 

westsahara51aA market area between Souq Djemal and Souq ez Zaj - Laayoune

 

 

westsahara53The grounds of Riyad Fes, ideal for children to play while enjoying a drink - Laayoune

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara52aPictures of the Green March hang in the Hotel al Massira, one of the few places that serves alcohol - upper town, Laayoune

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara40The fountain at Las Dunas restaurant in the centre of Place Dchira, Laayoune

 

 

westsahara52A water tower in the upper town, Laayoune

 

 

westsahara60Take a 5/10 minute walk beyond the airport heading towards Dakhla and there's picturesque scenes of lagoons, birdlife and sand dunes - Laayoune

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara64Sand dunes and water - Laayoune

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara58The best sand dunes I saw were a few kms further south of here, beyond the police checkpost and before Foum el Oued/Laayoune Plage - Laayoune

 

 

westsahara59The fenced off areas are apparently to prevent erosion and promote plant growth - Laayoune

 

 

westsahara65The older Saharawis I spoke to appreciated a conversation in Spanish rather than French (or better still Hassaniya).
I found the younger Saharawis spoke French rather than Spanish, in line with Moroccan schools. One exception was a taxi driver who claimed to be Polisario - Laayoune

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara69The fancy-looking Place Mechouar in the upper town, Laayoune

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara68Canopies and seats encircle Place Mechouar, Laayoune

 

 

westsahara66Next to Place Mechouar is the Laayoune's Great Mosque

 

 

westsahara70Don't bother going to Laayoune Plage, it's a waste of time

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara72I didn't realise it's an industrial town, about 20kms from Laayoune proper.
I was hoping for a nice beach but I think nearby Foum el Oued is the place to go - Laayoune Plage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara114The landscape between Laayoune and Dakhla consists of sand, scrub, rocky outcrops and more sand - Laayoune to Dakhla

 

 

westsahara74After an overnight bus ride I arrived in Dakhla at sunrise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara75Dakhla is built on a peninsula, with most of the town facing the inland shore rather than the Atlantic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara76Dakhla was known as Villa Cisneros in the Spanish era

 

 

westsahara76aIt has a small promenade area, ideal for an evening stroll - Dakhla

 

 

westsahara77A boat on the calm waters of the inland shore, Dakhla

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara80Boys at play - Dakhla

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara111On the Atlantic shore is the old Spanish lighthouse (known by its Spanish word 'faro') which can be reached via a long walk through wasteland. I couldn't be bothered - Dakhla

 

 

westsahara83The view from the Sahara Regency Hotel, Dakhla

 

 

westsahara84The skyline of Dakhla

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara85The tiny pool at the Sahara Regency Hotel, Dakhla

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara86The Green March Cup of Break Dance. Are you serious?! Dakhla

 

 

westsahara109Drying out a sheepskin hide. Outside homes in Smara and Tarfaya I also saw what looked like small bones (still covered with some meat) hung from clothes lines.

 

 

westsahara81Dakhla is famous for its kiteboarding / kitesurfing (is there a difference?).
Some links to give you an idea - here, here and here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara87And PK25, Dakhla is where some of it happens

 

 

westsahara88As you can probably tell there wasn't much wind on this day; in fact the air was completely still - PK25, Dakhla

 

 

westsahara91The water here is sometimes called Dakhla lagoon - PK25, Dakhla

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara102It's a beautiful area, 25kms from Dakhla, hence the name - PK25, Dakhla

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara104I was surprised to see over 20 luxury campervans all parked at the beach, mainly owned by 'mature' Europeans - PK25, Dakhla

 

 

westsahara101And yes there was something on my camera lens around this time - PK25, Dakhla

 

 

westsahara105There really is a Best Western hotel in Dakhla

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara105aThe inland shore view at Bab al Bahar (a Best Western hotel) - Dakhla

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

westsahara108A market area in the evening - Dakhla

 

 

Website and content Copyright © 2008-2011 Mark Wilkinson. All rights reserved.

 

LINKS

www.spsrasd.info - Sahara Press Service

www.wsahara.org.uk - UK based campaign group

www.sandblast-arts.org - arts & human rights charity

www.arso.org

http://looklex.com - lots of info on Western Sahara aswell as Morocco

www.oncf.ma - click on 'Train Times'. There's no trains in Western Sahara but ONCF supplement their trains with buses, especially in Western Sahara.

www.ctm.ma - download the CTM bus timetable under Telechargement - 'Horaires & Tarifs CTM'

 

I am not responsible for the content of external websites.

 

 
 
 
   
 
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