Western Sahara was a former Spanish colony inhabited by the indigenous Sahrawis. Annexed by the Moroccans in 1970s the area was now disputed territory. Morocco administered the west of the area and the east was controlled by the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, supported by the UN. Land mines and fortifications separated the two territories. We did wonder why they were fighting over this poor, sparsely populated desert. Mr Google informed us of the area’s huge phosphate reserves and the rich fishing grounds off its coast as well as untapped offshore oil deposits. Mystery solved!
We visited Laayoune, the main town of the area. We filled up with diesel at a fuel station and were relieved when we were also allowed to replenish our water tank by attaching our hosepipe to a tap in the men’s toilet. The truck’s capacity was 450 litres and, after four days travelling, we were getting low. It took over half hour to fill the tank – Tony manfully trying to keep the hose attached to the toilet tap using duct tape.
We drove to Foum el-Oued on the coast and stopped at the aptly named Camping Nil on the edge of the seaside town.
The camp site was unattractive and poorly kept although the guardian was quite friendly. The toilets were the stand up type and looked clean enough but the smell was horrible, you would be pretty desperate to use them.
We walked to the town, it was out of season (although 21° with blue sky and sunshine). The place was really a building site, the seafront was being converted into a wide promenade with fancy street lighting and wide paved squares complete with marble benches and sun shelters. A huge sports complex was nearing completion, contrasting bizarrely to the dirty and run down town centre. Two pristine modern toilet blocks stood on the promenade, both were firmly locked. Everywhere seemed deserted apart from construction workers.