Western Sahara

Western Sahara (EH in ISO 3166-1) is a territory of northwestern Africa, bordering Morocco on the north, Algeria on the northeast, Mauritania to the east and south, and the Atlantic Ocean on the west. The largest city is El Aaiún (Laayoune), containing the majority of the population.

Whether it is part of Morocco or is the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), is disputed. At present it is largely occupied, and entirely claimed, by Morocco, but this claim is not recognized by any state, whereas the SADR is recognized by several dozen. Western Sahara is on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

In the peace plan a future Western Sahara Authority (WSA) is envisaged.

Western Sahara is one of the most sparsely populated territories in the world, with some rankings listing it as the least dense.

الجمهورية العربية الصحراوية الديمقراطية
Al-Jumhūrīyâ al-Arabīyâ as-Ṣaḥrāwīyâ ad-Dīmuqrātīyâ
Missing image
Flag of Western Sahara

Coat of arms of Western Sahara
(In detail) (In detail)
National motto: none
Official language Arabic and Spanish
Capital and largest city Layoune (El Aaiún)
President (in exile) Mohamed Abdelaziz
Prime Minister (in exile) Abdelkader Taleb Oumar
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 83rd
266,000 km²
 - Total
 - Density
Ranked 182nd
267,405 (July 2004 est.)
 - Declared
 - Claimed and controlled
From Spain
 February 27, 1976
 By Morocco
Currency Moroccan Dirham (MAD)
Time zone UTC 0
National anthem n/a
Internet TLD None (.eh is reserved)
Calling Code + 212 (same code as Morocco)


Main article: History of Western Sahara

Morocco occupied the northern two-thirds of Western Sahara (formerly Spanish Sahara) in 1976, and the rest of the territory in 1979, following Mauritania's withdrawal. A guerrilla war carried by the Polisario Front contesting Rabat's sovereignty ended in a 1991 cease-fire; a referendum on final status has been repeatedly postponed. The 1991 peace accords included an agreement on the carrying out of a referendum among the indigenous population. The referendum was planned to give the population the option between independence or inclusion to Morocco. The referendum has, however, to this date not been carried out due to the conflict over who is entitled to vote.


Main articles: Politics of Western Sahara

The legal status of the territory and the question of its sovereignty is unresolved; the territory is contested by Morocco and Polisario Front.

See also Foreign relations of Morocco, Foreign relations of Western Sahara

Map of Western Sahara
Map of Western Sahara


Currently, Western Sahara is largely administered by Morocco. The extent of Morocco's administration is north and west of the berm, approxiametly two-thirds of the territory. The Moroccan name for Western Sahara is the "Southern Provinces" - Ro de Oro and Saguia el-Hamra. The remaining area is administered by the SADR. When the territory was a dependency of Spain, the same two subdivisions existed.


Main article: Geography of Western Sahara

Western Sahara is located in Northern Africa, bordering the North Atlantic Ocean, between Mauritania and Morocco. It also borders Algeria to the northeast.


Main article: Economy of Western Sahara

Western Sahara has few natural resources and lacks sufficient rainfall for most agricultural activities. Its economy is centred around nomadic herding, fishing, and phosphate mining. Most food for the urban population must be imported. All trade and other economic activities are controlled by the Moroccan government. Incomes and standards of living are substantially below those of Morocco.


Main article: Demographics of Western Sahara

Map of Western Sahara and Morocco

As of July 2004 there are an estimated 267,405 people living in the territory of Western Sahara, most of the Sahrawi nationality. They speak Hassaniya Arabic, Moroccan Arabic and Spanish. The main religion is Islam.

From the CIA World Factbook 2004


Main article: Culture of Western Sahara

The indigenous people of Western Sahara are the Sahrawis, a nomadic people who speak the Hassaniya dialect of Arabic. In recent years, the West has been introduced to their culture through the release of a handful of compact discs of Sahrawi music. The majority are Muslims. To date, there have been few thorough studies of the culture due in part to the political situation.

See also

Further reading

External links

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Countries in Africa

Algeria | Angola | Benin | Botswana | Burkina Faso | Burundi | Cameroon | Cape Verde | Central African Republic | Chad | Comoros | Democratic Republic of the Congo | Republic of the Congo | Cte d'Ivoire | Djibouti | Egypt | Equatorial Guinea | Eritrea | Ethiopia | Gabon | The Gambia | Ghana | Guinea | Guinea-Bissau | Kenya | Lesotho | Liberia | Libya | Madagascar | Malawi | Mali | Mauritania | Mauritius | Morocco | Mozambique | Namibia | Niger | Nigeria | Rwanda | So Tom and Prncipe | Senegal | Seychelles | Sierra Leone | Somalia | Somaliland | South Africa | Sudan | Swaziland | Tanzania | Togo | Tunisia | Uganda | Zambia | Zimbabwe | Western Sahara

Dependencies: Canary Islands | Ceuta and Melilla | Madeira Islands | Mayotte | Runion | Saint Helena and dependencies
ar:صحراء غربية

ca:Shara Occidental da:Vestsahara de:Demokratische Arabische Republik Sahara et:Lne-Sahara es:Sahara Occidental eo:Okcidenta Saharo fr:Sahara occidental ko:서사하라 id:Sahara Barat it:Sahara Occidentale he:סהרה המערבית lt:Vakarų Sachara ms:Sahara Barat nl:Westelijke Sahara ja:西サハラ nb:Vest-Sahara pl:Sahara Zachodnia pt:Saara Ocidental sk:Zpadn Sahara sl:Zahodna Sahara fi:Lnsi-Sahara sv:Vstsahara wa:Sara Cotchantrece zh:西撒哈拉


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