life through the lens
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.
Western Sahara uses the Moroccan Dirham
From Hotel Amine take a peek at the Spanish-built oval domes of the military barracks - Smara
A portrait of Mohammed VI, King of Morocco, stands at the entrance to the military barracks - Smara
Women in Saharawi dress - Smara
The colourful Saharawi dress remind me more of Mauritania than Morocco - Smara
Ma el Ainin's Palace lies on the west side of Smara. I couldn't find anyone to let me in.
Ma el Ainin's Palace - Smara
Smara's main street is Avenue Hassan II
More military remnants of the Spanish era - Smara
Though there's not much to see I enjoyed the town, with its relaxing roadside cafes and evening souq/market - Smara
Local children on the streets of Smara
Decaying buildings in a Smara sidestreet
..And a more colourful one - Smara
One of Smara's arches
Walk through the arch to see this mosque - Smara
One of the shops on Avenue Mohammed V - Smara
Another portrait of King Mohammed VI, outside the Province, Smara
Many of the oval-domed buildings are now residential homes - Smara
Join the locals and have a wander around the evening souq - Smara
Though not strictly part of Western Sahara, the small coastal town of Tarfaya, north of Laayoune, was a Spanish protectorate
It's got a pretty good beach - Tarfaya
Tarfaya is known for the Casa Mar, a fort built by Scottish merchant Donald Mackenzie following his arrival in 1879
The abandoned Casa Mar (also called Dar Mar) - Tarfaya
On 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.
Outside the Antoine de Saint-Exupery museum is a painting of the Green March.
Wikipedia 'Green March' entry here
More colourful patterns - Tarfaya
Unsurprisingly most of the town's streets are very sandy - Tarfaya
The streets of Tarfaya
Moroccan tajines are usually made up of potatoes, vegetables, lime, meat or fish and served mouth-burningly hot. Lovely! Tarfaya
Fishing boats coming back to shore - Tarfaya
The cathedral in the lower town, Laayoune
The square opposite the cathedral - Laayoune
Let's have some more oval-domed roofs - Laayoune
The lower town leads to the Seguiat el Hamra, a valley containing lagoons and a variety of birdlife - Laayoune
Birds in the water at Seguiat el Hamra - Laayoune
It could be a beautiful area but it's used as a rubbish tip - Seguiat el Hamra, Laayoune
'Ceda el Paso' - A remnant of the Spanish era in the lower town, Laayoune
A market area between Souq Djemal and Souq ez Zaj - Laayoune
The grounds of Riyad Fes, ideal for children to play while enjoying a drink - Laayoune
Pictures of the Green March hang in the Hotel al Massira, one of the few places that serves alcohol - upper town, Laayoune
The fountain at Las Dunas restaurant in the centre of Place Dchira, Laayoune
A water tower in the upper town, Laayoune
Take a 5/10 minute walk beyond the airport heading towards Dakhla and there's picturesque scenes of lagoons, birdlife and sand dunes - Laayoune
Sand dunes and water - Laayoune
The 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
The fenced off areas are apparently to prevent erosion and promote plant growth - Laayoune
The older Saharawis I spoke to appreciated a conversation in Spanish rather than French (or better still Hassaniya).
The fancy-looking Place Mechouar in the upper town, Laayoune
Canopies and seats encircle Place Mechouar, Laayoune
Next to Place Mechouar is the Laayoune's Great Mosque
Don't bother going to Laayoune Plage, it's a waste of time
I didn't realise it's an industrial town, about 20kms from Laayoune proper.
The landscape between Laayoune and Dakhla consists of sand, scrub, rocky outcrops and more sand - Laayoune to Dakhla
After an overnight bus ride I arrived in Dakhla at sunrise
Dakhla is built on a peninsula, with most of the town facing the inland shore rather than the Atlantic
Dakhla was known as Villa Cisneros in the Spanish era
It has a small promenade area, ideal for an evening stroll - Dakhla
A boat on the calm waters of the inland shore, Dakhla
Boys at play - Dakhla
On 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
The view from the Sahara Regency Hotel, Dakhla
The skyline of Dakhla
The tiny pool at the Sahara Regency Hotel, Dakhla
The Green March Cup of Break Dance. Are you serious?! Dakhla
Drying 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.
And PK25, Dakhla is where some of it happens
As you can probably tell there wasn't much wind on this day; in fact the air was completely still - PK25, Dakhla
The water here is sometimes called Dakhla lagoon - PK25, Dakhla
It's a beautiful area, 25kms from Dakhla, hence the name - PK25, Dakhla
I was surprised to see over 20 luxury campervans all parked at the beach, mainly owned by 'mature' Europeans - PK25, Dakhla
And yes there was something on my camera lens around this time - PK25, Dakhla
There really is a Best Western hotel in Dakhla
The inland shore view at Bab al Bahar (a Best Western hotel) - Dakhla
A market area in the evening - Dakhla
Website and content Copyright © 2008-2011 Mark Wilkinson. All rights reserved.
www.spsrasd.info - Sahara Press Service
www.wsahara.org.uk - UK based campaign group
www.sandblast-arts.org - arts & human rights charity
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.