Western Sahara

What to visit in Western Sahara

Rubina Cheruvalath Rubina Cheruvalath 13 December 2020
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Travel to some places is tempting but held back for several reasons. Western Sahara is one such place. Travel to Western Sahara is on people's bucket lists, but the Western Sahara conflict may be one of the reasons why not many tourists travel there. If you have some inhibitions on whether Western Sahara is safe to travel or the Western Sahara conflict, you must read this blog. You won't believe it, but the best places to visit Western Sahara are indeed interesting. This guide is a detailed introspection on the best places to visit in Western Sahara, where to travel in the Western Sahara, where is Western Sahara, Western Sahara people, Western Sahara language, Western Sahara conflict, and much much more. 

Before we get to know about the best places to visit Western Sahara, below is some general information about Western Sahara. 

Where is Western Sahara?

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Western Sahara is an unrecognized country located on the North West coast of Africa. It was formerly a Spanish colony and was later annexed by Morocco. The country occupies an extensive desert region and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean, Mauritania, and Morocco

Is Western Sahara a country?

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It is a non-self-governing territory that is under a long-running Western Sahara conflict. Nonetheless, the sparsely populated region is declared an unrecognized country formed on November 14th of 1975. So, the answer to is Western Sahara a country is yes, however not recognized. 

What is the Western Sahara conflict?

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Western Sahara was a Spanish colony until 1975. A dispute originated from the Polisario Front's insurgency against the Spanish forces that existed from 1973 to 1975. Subsequently, there was a war against Morocco from 1975 to 1991. Since then, the Polisario front's indigenous people are in a long-running dispute with the country of Morocco for 100% ownership.

Who owns Western Sahara?

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It is a non-self-governing territory, according to the United Nations, since 1963. Nonetheless, Western Sahara is around 75% under the control of Morocco. The Sahrawi pastoral nomads almost entirely inhabited the region until the mid-20th century. Now, the region is mostly under Morocco's control and has Moroccan military checkpoints throughout the area. 

What is the capital of Western Sahara?

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When Western Sahara was a northeast African overseas province of the Spanish, the capital of Western Sahara was Laayoune. However, the question of the capital of Western Sahara holds great confusion since 1976 (by the end of the Spanish rule). Laayoune is declared the Moroccan-controlled province in Western Sahara (although not internationally recognized). 

Interested to learn about the best places to visit Western Sahara? It's better to know them before you travel to Western Sahara! Here are a few of the interesting places and things to do in Western Sahara.

1. The historical border of Spanish Sahara

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Also known as the sand wall, defensive wall, and berm, this historical monument finds great importance in Western Sahara's history. This famous wall marks the furious conflict in the international context between the two blocs of the Spanish and the local Sahrawi people. In Morocco, the event of winning back the region of Western Sahara from the Spaniards is seen as a movement called the Green March. The historical border of the Spanish Sahara is a strong monument depicting the importance of the green march. There is no actual border or immigration between Western Sahara and the Moroccan region. However, this wall with the Western Sahara flag marks the border, letting you know that you have entered the Moroccan region of Western Sahara.

2. The port city of Boujdour

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When driving south through Western Sahara, you will come across the port city of Boujdour, which is one of the best Western Sahara places to visit. From the antique lighthouse to the buildings' architecture, you can see the influence of the Portuguese settlement that was prevalent in the area in the past. However, you cannot visit the lighthouse now as a military base surrounds it. Nonetheless, you can have a clear and beautiful view of the lighthouse from a recently renovated park nearby. One of the reasons you have to travel to Western Sahara is for the fish delicacies in Boujdour. The Western Sahara people, especially the ones at Boujdour, are great at cooking up homemade delicacies out of fresh fish! So, don't ever miss trying out the fish dishes here. 

3. Ostrich farm at Dakhla

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Dakhla is not the administrative city of Western Sahara. But it is definitely similar to what is the capital of Western Sahara, Laayoune. It is the second biggest city in Western Sahara and has plenty of options for things to do. When thinking of where to travel in the Western Sahara, the Dakhla ostrich farm is sure to cross some adventurous minds. There is a population of around 460 ostriches here that inhabit the park built-in 2015. You can see that the ostriches enjoy semi-freedom and roam around freely with only a fence that separates them from the visiting public. 

4. Smara (Es Semara)

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Smara, also is known as Es Semara, was once an important caravan stop in the past. The town is, however, now occupied by the Moroccan army and is a rather quiet place. The remains of the palace and the great mosque of the "Blue sultan" are the only remnants of the past here. The attached zaouia is usually closed but is open on Fridays to visit. This is one of the best Western Sahara places to visit, and it clearly depicts the earlier presence of Ma el Aïnin, the "Blue Sultan," who tried to oust the French colonialists in the early twentieth century. 

5. The white dunes at Laayoune

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When you think of where to travel in the Western Sahara, it is safe to say that there aren't many suitable places. The Western Sahara people usually lead a laid-back life with a quiet dune and a chat over tea to be one of the favorites. You could have a formidable desert experience in the white dunes of Laayoune. However, you might want to learn the basics of the Western Sahara language, Arabic, to communicate with the locals. 

6. Tarfaya

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Tarfaya is a small town with only a small percentage of the Western Sahara population residing. In the colonial period, Tarfaya was the administrative capital of Spanish South Morocco. This place is famous for Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the French author who was stationed here in 1929. You can see a statue of the airplane that commemorates the writer and the pilot. The Castle Dar Mar, a 200-year-old castle with the Western Sahara flag, is also a sight to see while here. 

7. Guelta Zemmour

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Guelta Zemmouris a small town that was built around a guelta or oasis hundreds of years ago. The Sahrawi nomads formed a large part of the Western Sahara population then. Later, Guelta Zemmour came under the Polisario Front. However, now it is under the control of who owns Western Sahara, the Moroccans. You can catch a gorgeous desert sunset and a star-spangled night sky. Is this part of Western Sahara safe to travel to? No! There are many minefields located throughout the town. 

8. Hot spring massage at Dakhla

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Dakhla's thermal spring is also one of the Western Sahara places to visit for a therapeutic massage! The hot spring under the ground is linked to the surface with a hose. The locals will blast you with a high-pressure jet on the back. Talk about interesting ways to get a massage and relax! Don't forget to yell in the Western Sahara language if you aren't feeling comfortable, though! 

When learning what to visit in Western Sahara, there are some other things to remember while traveling to Western Sahara:

• You don't require a separate visa for Western Sahara. However, you will need a Moroccan visa

• The local transportation facilities here clearly show where is Western Sahara in the phase of development. There are no proper roads or public transport facilities in Western Sahara. 

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• Certain international bodies do not recommend travel to Western Sahara, considering safety precautions. Nonetheless, Western Sahara is safe to travel reasonably after understanding the risks involved. 

• The Western Sahara population is predominantly Muslim and is very conservative. So, always ensure to dress accordingly. 

• The issue of who owns Western Sahara is an ongoing conflict. Try to avoid publicly making statements regarding this. 

• The Western Sahara flag uses traditional pan-Arab characters that express solidarity among Arab nations. 

Final words

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Still having doubts like "Is Western Sahara a country?". It's time you leave such thoughts aside and make plans to enjoy the best of the desert and the coast. It may not be the most hospitable of places to visit, but it is definitely worth it for the picturesque landscapes all over!

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Rubina Cheruvalath

Rubina is a free thinker and a dreamer. She believes that there is something to be learnt from everything. Despite securing a technical background in education, Rubina pursued to think beyond and work in the management field. A proud mum of two boys, she aspires to explore the world with her family and create cherishable memories.

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