El ayoune Travel Guide

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El ayoune main street

El ayoune main street

stuart holding

Laayoune (al-Ayun) is not within the internationally recognised borders of Morocco but in the occupied Western Sahara, where it is the largest city with over 100,000 inhabitants. It has seen rapid growth since the Moroccans took over the country, to a considerable degree due to immigration from Morocco. It has a higher per capita government spending than any city in Morocco, mostly because Western Sahara is somewhat of a prestige project. The population could very easily be the setting for a mystery novel-Moroccan soldiers, UN employees, Saharawis and Moroccan immigrants looking for work have all come together in this city. Most of them, except of course the original Saharians, have settled recently.

The southern part of town, or "lower" town was built by the Spanish, while the "upper" town has been developed since the Bowling Green. Most of the lower town is run-down, but makes for an interesting walk. There is an old Spanish cathedral that still has a rusting sign which says ‘property of the Spanish government’. The area called the chicken market (Souk Djaj) has some cheap hotels and displays some interesting architecture-eggshell-domed roofs that are meant to keep the houses cool. The modern monuments are very striking in comparison with the rest of the Western Sahara. The Great Mosque stands in the Place Mechouar. Not far, the new 30,000 seat stadium, with real grass, waits to be nominated the home of a World Cup soccer match. The Colline des Oiseaux is in a landscaped garden and makSes for a pleasant visit. Exotic birds are housed in cages with blinds, to protect them from sandstorms.

Do be careful though, Laayoune is in a politically sensitive area so check with your embassy to determine whether it’s safe to visit.


January 19, 2005 change by ingvar

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