The Plight of the Saharawi

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Africa » Western Sahara
March 25th 2007
Published: March 25th 2007
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Western Sahara SunsetWestern Sahara SunsetWestern Sahara Sunset

I had to lay on the sand and brave the scorpions to get this snap.
Western Sahara rarely features on lists of the world's countries anymore. Even on most maps, this large area of northwest Africa generally appears as part of Morocco. However, even in the eyes of the United Nations, Western Sahara is a seperate entity.

The country used to be known as Rio de Oro after it was grabbed by Spain during the scramble for Africa in the late nineteenth century. They grabbed it as a protectorate mainly because other European countries were claiming new colonies so why shouldn't they. It was soon realised that the land had little economic worth and never broke even before it was given up by Spain in 1975.

The country was divided in two with the top half going to Morocco and the bottom half to Mauritania. But Morocco wanted all of it. Mauritania was far too poor to but up significant resistance and left Morocco to it.

During the last 120 years while all of this has been going on, the resident population, the Saharawi, have understandably been quite narked that they have had no say and no power in their own country. A nationalist movement was formed, the Polisario, initially to get
Endless NothingnessEndless NothingnessEndless Nothingness

This is an attempt to illustrate the abject desolation of Western Sahara.
rid off the Spanish, then the Mauritanians and Moroccans.

Using guerilla tactics, the Polisario initially had some success fighting for independance, but, when funding, principally from Algeria and Libya, stopped coming, their progress has been very limited. In retaliation, the Polisario and Saharawi civilians have been attacked at different times by the Moroccans, the Mauritanians and the French Air Force.

Thousands of Saharawi fled into the Sahara Desert to escape the fighting and most have been there ever since. In 1981 the Moroccans constructed a fortified sand barrier, including the largest mine field in the world, within Western Sahara cutting off the refugees from the larger part of their own country. Some 200000 refugees currently live in camps in Algeria and in their own words "...have chosen a life in exile, hundreds of miles from home, rather than live under the rule of a king whose reign has sought to erase their existence".

In the mean time hundreds of thousands of Moroccan settlers have made Western Sahara their home. Principal employment is in mining the rich phosphate deposits or fishing. Both activities restricted to a narrow strip along the coast from which the Sahrawi are prevented from
More Endless NothingnessMore Endless NothingnessMore Endless Nothingness

Rock becomes gravel becomes sand as you head south.
accessing by the 1000km long barrier.

The United Nations have been arguing over what to do about the situation for over twenty years. None of the parties involved can agree on even minor points that must be settled before there can be any sort of referendum on independance. In the meantime more and more settlers arrive, attracted by cheap, ready built housing, great roads, cheap fuel, making the place certainly Moroccan in nature if not quite in name.

Travelling through the country you struggle to see what they are fighting over. It is an incredibly desolate part of the world. The searing heat, fierce wind and endless gravelly plains appear to be completely uninhabitable. But to some people its home and that is worth fighting over.

Additional photos below
Photos: 8, Displayed: 8


The Long Atlantic BeachThe Long Atlantic Beach
The Long Atlantic Beach

Some of the richest fishing grounds in the world lay just off shore. But this ship couldn't be bothered.
Roadblock Near LaayouneRoadblock Near Laayoune
Roadblock Near Laayoune

I have no clue as to the relevance of an ostrich and a marlin.
Another Western Sahara SunsetAnother Western Sahara Sunset
Another Western Sahara Sunset

Obviously there is not much to photograph in this country.
Landmine Warning SignLandmine Warning Sign
Landmine Warning Sign

Not a place to go wandering far off the road for a piddle.
Great SlippersGreat Slippers
Great Slippers

It was so rare to see another person that I took his photo.

1st September 2007

How safe is Western Sahara
To any Travellers that have been to Western Sahara: we are planning to go to Timbuktu overland and thus thinking about crossing Western Sahara...we found some serious warnings about going to WS but thought we might just asked someone who's been there. So how safe is it? We are planning to do a road trip in a private landrover. We'll probably just be crossing over from Morocco into Mauretania via the shortest possible way. Can anyone confirm any warnings? Would very much appreciate your feedback. Thanks heaps! And happy traveling!!! Christina
4th September 2007

Its Easier Than You'd Think
The coast road through Western Sahara is now tarmac, you no longer have to find a path through the dunes. The good road continues all the way to Nouakchott and then east right to Mali. You won't be alone on the road through Western Sahara so it seems safe. Just don't go too far off the main road because of the minefields. Have a nice trip, D
9th December 2007

nice pictures. but about the last comment, is the part of the coastal road through northern mauritania also tarmac now, or does it stop on the border?
9th December 2007

The tarmac road continues from the border right the way to Nouakchott. Watch out for camels. D
5th February 2008

West Africa
Thinking of taking a camping car from Morroco which we know quite well to the Gambia via WesternSahara Mauretania and Senegal. Is this possible in relation to Road conditions? Is it paved Roads any other issues. Thanks Happy Travels
17th February 2008

The road is tarmac from Morocco, all the way through Western Sahara and Mauritania as far as Nouakchott. South of Nouakchott and into Senegal I don't know what the conditions are. No real difficulties or issues. Just stock up your supplies before leaving Morocco bacause the road is pretty empty. D
16th August 2009

Hello a small mark at the time of my passage on your very beautiful blog! congratulations! thanks for making us share your moments you have a translation of my English space! cordially from France ¸..· ´¨¨)) -:¦:- ¸.·´ .·´¨¨)) ((¸¸.·´ ..·´ -:¦:- -:¦:- ((¸¸.·´* ~ Chris ~ -:¦:-

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