Western Sahara

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Western Sahara remains a disputed territory, occupied by Morocco, but with claims from the Saharawi refugees over the border in Algeria.  It has little in the way of natural resources (apart from a substantial phosphate mine near Laayoune), so is hardly worth fighting over, and was abandoned by the Spanish in 1975 at the end of the Franco regime.  The war with the Saharawis was effectively settled by the construction of a massive berm (sand wall) stretching the entire length of the border with Algeria and Mauritania with a smattering of land mines to deter any incursion; unfortunately this also severely limits any aspirations you might have to explore the inland areas of Western Sahara and makes crossing the border impossible except for a single border crossing into Mauritania at Guergarat in the far South.  As a result it has become the overlanders route of choice for a relatively easy journey from Europe to West Africa and, although described by many as boring and monotonous, I find there is something rather mesmeric and even therapeutic about driving for a few days with a constant view of sand, sky and the blue of the Atlantic Ocean.

Since the 1970's,  the Moroccans have attempted to develop the area by investing in infrastructure such as the random placement of Identikit towns along the new coast road from Morocco to the Mauritanian border, and have encouraged (Moroccan) settlement by granting the entire area tax-free status.  The UN has "observers" in Laayoune and Dakhla, but there is nothing much to observe, other than the endless sandy beaches, and it is expected that they will eventually withdraw through boredom as it has become a de facto peaceful province of Morocco.

Laayoune Dakhla Gulf of Cintra Gallery

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Jeremy Harrison 2005-2020