"Tears in Sahara. A sad history" Western Sahara by jorgejuansanchez
Western Sahara Travel Guide: 203 reviews and 576 photos
I was twice in Western Sahara. First one in 1972, when it was still a Spanish colony, and visited the capital, El Aaiun (in Arabian language means: The Fountains), and Ciudad Cisneros, today called Ad Dahla (The external), in the south. I was very young, 18 years old; I loved adventure and wanted to continue farther down to Mauritania, then Senegal, Mali, etc. But at the border with Mauritania the Spanish authorities convinced me to change up my mind.
I remember that in El Aaiun I enjoyed walking outside of the town, where the saharawis lived, and they were all surprised to see me because the Spaniards did not use to visit that area, and even some of them tried to prevent me from going there. But many saharawis greeted me in Spanish language along my way and smiled; I felt that they were pleased to see me, and nobody disturb me or throw me stones (as, for instance, some Moroccans sometimes do with the foreigners). They lived in simple houses and some had animals, such as goats and camels. I remember that they were not allowed to buy alcoholic drinks in the Spanish bars or shops.
The second time that I visited Western Sahara was just a few years ago. I was in Nouadhibou, Mauritania, and wanted to go back to Spain overland. But I was denied the entry by the Moroccan authorities because I was alone and at that time you needed to join a convoy with soldiers to accompany you in that dangerous area full of mines. Finally, after waiting for ten days in Nouadhibou, a Spanish fishing boat took me to Las Palmas, in Canary Islands, and from there I flew to El Aaiun, and continued by buses to Morocco, stopping in the old Spanish enclave of Sidi Ifni.
During this second journey I had the opportunity to talk in Spanish with a saharawi whom I met during the train journey from Choum to Nouadhibou (the Saharawis still preserve the Spanish language). He belonged to the Frente Polisario, which means: Frente Popular de Liberacion de Saguia el-Hamra y Rio de Oro. According to him, the Portuguese visited Western Sahara in 1434, but did not set up permanent colonies. Spain dominated this territory between 1509 and 1524. Then the Moroccans took it during three centuries, and in 1884 Spain declared a protectorate from Borjador Cape until Blanco Cape. After some agreements with France in 1900 and 1904, Spain extended his dominions and called them: Rio de Oro, in the south, and Saguia el-Hamra, in the north, and in 1958 the two fragments were united under the name Spanish Sahara. Then, in 1970, the saharawis nationalists organized the FRENTE POLISARIO, and claimed the independence of their country. Meanwhile, Mauritania, Algeria and Morocco also wanted the country for themselves.
Then, Moroccans, with the complacence of France and USA, organized the Green March in 1975. Franco was dying and the last thing that Spain wanted was to embark in a war for a piece of desert half the territory of Spain, but rich in phosphates and fishing banks. Then there was an agreement in Madrid in 1976 and the Western Sahara was divided between Mauritania (one third) and Morocco (two thirds), but Morocco invaded it all of it in 1979 and does not want to give back the country to the saharawis, who do not have any desire to form part of Morocco.
Morocco has sent many thousands of Moroccans to populate this territory, offering them special economical conditions, while over 200.000 saharawis live stacked in desperate conditions in refugee camps in Tindouf, in the border with Algeria, country which supports the saharawis, waiting to go back to their country once the Moroccan occupation finish.
Spain did not participate in the scramble for Africa, that was the matter of Belgium, France, England, Germany, Italy and Portugal.
Presently, all African countries and organizations, without exception, support Western Sahara right to sovereignty of their country, and there are many Western Sahara embassies in Africa and in the whole world.
This third time I reached the liberated part of the RASD (Republica Arabe Saharaui Democratica) in April 2007, from Tindouf, Argelia. I noticed that Spanish is the second language, after Arabic, for the Sahrawi people.
It was not easy to get there since nobody wanted to help you to cross to the liberated part of the country, I mean, the fragment not included within the horrible ands shameful wall constructed by the Moroccan people, that in fact where six walls.
From Tindouf it took me 4 hours to get to Bir Lahlu, what means Well of sweet water.
There I visited a United Nations encampment.
This is the visa that I got in my passport from the authorities of RASD (Republic Arab Sahrawi Democratic), or the country found beyond the cruel wall (over 2000 kilometres long surrounded by 5 millions antipersonnel mines and defended by 110.000 invaders Moroccan soldiers). It is very hard to get to RASD, country controlled by the POLISARIO; very few travellers in the world can really claim to have visited this country, much different than the occupied zone by Morocco. Most of the Sahrawi Republic citizens live now in the encampments near Tindouf, Algeria.
There are five United Nations bases within the liberated RASD territory, and three under the Moroccan invaded territory, in the other side of the infamous wall.
Moroccan militaries killed thousands of civilians, women and children mainly, spreading napalm with their airplanes.
RASD is recognized by most African nations, several Spanish speaking countries such as Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba, etc., plus India.
European countries prefer to support Moroccan invasion in exchange of economical sales of their products, as is the case of France, or to sell weapons, as does USA and other European countries, or permission to fish in Moroccan waters, as is the shameful case of my own country Spain, giving thus the back to a territory that was our 53rd province and where the people still speak Spanish as the second language.
But Sahrawi people are surviving in the middle of the desert, free, proudly refusing to live subjugated under Moroccan dominion.
You will see many camels in the Sahara desert. If you are lucky you will observe the birth of a baby camel, like the one... more travel advice
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