Tales from the Sands: Western Sahara’s Untamed Beauty
The Western Sahara is a dry region that spans the Tropic of Capricorn and faces the Atlantic Ocean. It is the focus of a protracted conflict between the Saharawi people, who want independence, and Morocco, which claims control of the region. Morocco’s independence in 1957 sparked a renewed nationalistic enthusiasm in this region, with the Polisario Front spearheading the guerrilla struggle against the Spanish invaders in the region that included parts of Tarfaya and the old Spanish Saharan territories.
The Historical Crossroads: Conflict and Culture
Following the Iberians’ eventual departure from the nation in 1975, expansionist efforts by both Mauritania and Morocco were directed against the region. But Morocco was unwavering in its goals, and Mauritania quickly capitulated; King Hassan II, seeking to establish his authority in this region, thereby orchestrated the historic Green March southward.
With the loss of Libyan and Algerian support for the Polisario Front and the gradual militarization of the region by the Moroccan government, Western Sahara is now essentially a part of Morocco. In the interim, Morocco has constructed infrastructure and engaged in political activity to welcome northern residents to settle here.
The Sahrawi people were not given the chance to freely choose between independence and integration with Morocco when the UN-negotiated truce in 1991 failed to bring about the referendum that was promised. The population of the territory are subject to military occupation, which is forcefully maintained by the Rabat administration.
Because of these factors, the government forbids tourists from taking pictures of military installations or the camps for refugees that are close to the major towns and still house a large number of Sahrawis. In a similar vein, foreigners are not allowed in the Dakhla red light area, which is close to the army barracks and headquarters.
In addition to having little to offer travelers, the Western Sahara region is heavily guarded by the army and police, which discourages some people from traveling this far. To be very honest, the country is flat, dry, and uninviting.
Tarfaya: A Glimpse into the Past
Just before Tarfaya, travelers arriving from the north along the coast can enjoy an expressive spectacle of vast untamed beaches and occasionally spooky shipwrecks rising from the water after traveling hundreds of kilometers through the desert.
Once in the tiny fishing port town of Tarfaya, which dates back to the 19th century and is closely associated with the French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, tourists should definitely stop by the monument and museum honoring the writer. While employed here as the local station’s director, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry penned the well-known tale The Little Prince.
Laayoune: The Pulse of Moroccan Authority
Proceeding around 100 kilometers southward, you reach Laayoune, the capital of Western Sahara and the hub of Moroccan authority in the area due to its residence of the military garrisons and administrative headquarters.
The spectacular desert sand dunes that stretch seemingly forever in the region northwest of the capital are far more interesting than the urban area itself.
Dakhla: Where Desert Meets Sea
Dakhla was established by the Spanish in 1844 on a sandy peninsula that protruded into the sea. With more than 40,000 residents, it’s the second-biggest and most significant city in the area. It’s more over 500 miles away from Laayoune, so getting there requires spending countless hours traveling through remote areas, taxing your body and mind.
Once in the city, tourists find a bustling area that welcomes a large number of Canary Island visitors each day; the beach and the historic Spanish lighthouse at Point Durnford are without a doubt the main draws. We also remind out that off-road vehicle trips into the desert are an option for individuals who haven’t had enough.
Navigating Western Sahara: Travel Tips and Essentials
Casablanca, Agadir, and Dakhla are the three other Moroccan cities with direct flights to Laayoune airport. Moreover, Dakhla and Las Palmas, in the Canary Islands, are connected by air. If you need to travel any other distance, you’ll need to be patient and catch one of the busses run by the several firms in the area. An even more expedient option is to take a grand taxi, which is marginally more costly than the bus.
Since Western Sahara is seen as an essential component of Moroccan territory, there is no formal border between it and Morocco. It is crucial to remember that a Mauritanian visa is required for travel to or from the neighboring country of Mauritania. It is best to get the visa before leaving Italy to prevent any problems. It can be requested from the Embassy in Rabat by anyone who is unable to plan in time.