Western Sahara Highlights




Video Clip Western Sahara (under construction)

Video Clip Overlanding Africa

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General Information

Western Sahara is a disputed territory abandoned by the Spanish in the mid 70’s and now a disputed territory on the northwest coast in the Magreb region. Partially controlled by the self-proclaimed Polisario and occupied by neighbouring Morocco, Spanish Sahara It is one of the least populated areas in the world and mainly is flat desert land. Just under 50% of the total population lives in Laayoune, the largest city in Western Sahara. There is little agriculture in the region; camels, goats, and sheep are raised, and dried fish is mainly exported to the Canary Islands. The Moroccan Government administers Western Sahara’s economy and is a key source of employment, infrastructure development, and social spending in the territory. Western Sahara has a small market-based economy whose main industries are fishing, phosphate mining, tourism, and pastoral nomadism. The territory’s arid desert climate makes sedentary agriculture difficult, and much of its food is imported. Western Sahara’s unresolved legal status makes the exploitation of its natural resources a contentious issue between Morocco and the Polisario. Morocco and the EU in December 2013 finalized a four-year agreement allowing European vessels to fish off the coast of Morocco, including disputed waters off the coast of Western Sahara. Vast phosphate deposits are mined at Bu Craa, southeast of Laayoune. Phosphate extraction, however, presents problems because of the shortage of water. A conveyor belt more than 60 miles (100 km) long, meant to carry phosphate from the mines to the piers southwest of Laayoune, is frequently damaged by Polariso in their fight against Morocco. As of 2011, no other member state of the united Nations ever officially recognized Moroccan sovereignty over parts of Western Sahara. However, the African Union recognized in 1984 the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (alternative name for Western Sahara by Polasario) one of its full members, with the same status as Morocco, and Morocco protested by suspending its membership to the African Union. In October 2010 Gadaym Izik camp was set up near just outside Laayoune as a protest by displaced Sahrawi people about their living conditions. It was home to more than 12,000 people. In November 2010 Moroccan security forces entered Gadaym Izik camp in the early hours of the morning, using helicopters and water cannon to force people to leave.  


Who is Polisario?

A politico-military organization striving to end Moroccan control of the former Spanish territory now occupied by Morocco. The Polisario Front is composed largely of the indigenous nomadic inhabitants of the Western Sahara region, the Sahrawis. The Polisario Front relocated to Algeria, which henceforth provided the organization with bases and military aid. During the 1980s Polisario Front guerrillas, numbering some 15,000 motorized and well-armed troops, harassed and raided Moroccan outposts and defences in Western Sahara. UN-sponsored talks between the Polisario Front and the Moroccan government took place in 2007 and 2008 amid warnings by the Polisario Front of a return to armed hostilities. During our visit in 2011 relations were tense and attacks were common. Rumours of oil have been circulating.


Amazing that 95 if not 99% of overlanders travel to westernized Morocco while in both Western Sahara and Mauritania sandy tracks, sand dunes are plentiful and offering some real Magreb African life. The paved roads cover all the way to Mauritania making it a quick few days to get to your starting point before starting the return journey exploring North East Mauritania and the Western Sahara. Western Sahara is well characterized by rocky landscapes and the expansive sand dunes you will never experience anywhere else. Located in the sub-Saharan desert the sites that are charming for every new traveller makes this part of the world an amazing tourist destination. The Atlantic coastline adds to its mix of plenty, coastal views that are spectacular and breath taking also contributing to the vastness of this region. The popularity of Western Sahara emerges from the fact that it is full of exotic deserts, natural features and amazing history that goes handy with diverse culture.