Laayoune is the largest town in Western Sahara, the desert region south of Morocco’s Anti Atlas Mountains. Occupied by Spain until 1974, Western Sahara remains in legal limbo as a disputed territory. After the “Green March” of November 1975—when 350,000 Moroccans marched across the border into the Sahara—a conflict broke out between the Moroccans and the Polisario Front, a group that demanded independence for its native Sahrawi people. Talks have been underway between Morocco and Polisario since a UN-sponsored cease fire in 1991.
The town tends to serve as a stopover point for travelers going between Mauritania and southern Morocco or for those on the way to try kite surfing at Dakhla’s desert lagoon. From Marrakech, it’s a 16-hour plus bus ride to Laayoune. Although you’ll be driving through desert, don’t expect spectacular scenery like you’ll find at Erg Chebbi; this part of the Sahara is all hamada—flat, rocky desert. (more…)