world map

Western Sahara

A strife-torn country on the edge of North Africa

date of entry 05/11/2004
mileage 423,103

capital El Aaiún

area 266.000 km²

population 548.000

Western Sahara is an arid strip of coastal land to the south of, and largely annexed by, Morocco. The government spent decades locked in civil war with the Polisario liberation movement. Following a ceasefire in 1991, Polisario controls the landlocked eastern part of Western Sahara, sealed off by a wall from Morocco. Western Sahara is one of the only routes from Europe to southern Africa that is halfway safe to drive, and this is the way Gunther went on his last major tour of Africa in 2013.
  • Otto surveys the ocean from a rugged clifftop in this sparsely populated region
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  • Western Sahara is one of the few safe driving routes from Europe to southern Africa. Large parts of the desert region are unsafe following numerous attacks and kidnappings. In 2004, Otto, Christine and Gunther were heading for Dakar in Senegal.
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  • Moroccan flags and two imposing statues of dromedaries symbolise Morocco’s claim to the territory of Western Sahara, a large part of which it has annexed.
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  • There were locusts everywhere. Otto was caught up in the plague of 2004
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  • When it came to the crunch, he almost always emerged the victor
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  • Though some survived the collision In some parts of Africa, there were up to 100 locusts per square metre.
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  • Otto journeyed past oases, mountain foothills...
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  • ...and old forts as they continued southwards along the coast. During the 2013 trip, Otto had to travel in convoy for safety reasons.
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  • Fishing is the only source of income for many people here. It can be a dangerous occupation: the boats are small, and the Atlantic often rough.
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  • Just getting the boats through the waves and out to sea can be a difficult task.
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  • The coast is also popular with surfers from Europe, some of whom spend the winter here. With the right satellite equipment, you can even watch European television.
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  • Video: Western Sahara: The Moroccanisation of the desert