Western Sahara is a region in northwestern Africa, a territory of uncertain status. It is bordered by Morocco to the north, Algeria to the northeast, Mauritania to the east and south, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. There is no consensus on whether Western Sahara is part of Morocco or a separate Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. Currently, the territory is occupied by Morocco, but some countries do not recognize this occupation. See other countries beginning with W.
Since ancient times, Negroid and Berber tribes lived in the Western Sahara, who were engaged in hunting, herding animals and agriculture. 7th century Arab tribes arrived in the Maghreb and this fact determined the Arabization of the Western Sahara. As early as the 8th century, a large number of Berbers accepted Islam. 11th century Berber tribes founded the Almoravid Empire, which was a powerful state in the Western Maghreb. However, the empire did not last long and ceased to exist after the Almohad uprising.
After the collapse of the Almoravid Empire, further Arabization of the region took place. The Arab tribes that arrived in the 13th century mixed with the Berber tribes and a new ethnic group was formed – the Sahrawis. 15th century the first Europeans came to Western Sahara to hunt slaves. 15th century at the end of the treaty between Portugal and Spain, Western Sahara was included in the Spanish sphere of influence, but officially Western Sahara became a Spanish colony and was called Spanish Sahara only after the Berlin Conference held in 1884-1885.
The local population, the Sahrawis, resisted the Spanish rule and in 1975 The International Court of Justice ruled that the people of Western Sahara have the right to self-determination. However, Morocco opposed such a resolution. Mauritania, Spain and Morocco decided to divide the Western Sahara into two parts: one went to Morocco, the other to Mauritania. Western Sahara rebel organization Polisario in 1976. February 27 announced the establishment of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and until 1991 led a guerrilla war against Morocco.
The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic has no administrative divisions.
Morocco controls the coastal zone to the west of the Moroccan wall ( English Moroccan wall or “berm”), and the Polisario – most of the eastern border with Algeria and Mauritania.
Three regions of Morocco are wholly or partly within the territory of Western Sahara:
- Gelmimo-Es Semara region(in part)
- Ajun-Bujdur-Saqiya Al Hamr region(partly)
- Wadi ed Dahab-el Kuwir region(full)
Western Sahara borders Morocco in the north, Algeria in the east, and Mauritania as well. The sea borders the Canary Islands. The Atlantic Ocean washes in the west. The east and north of Western Sahara are higher than the west. The highest point of the Western Sahara is 805 meters and the lowest is 55 meters (Sebjet Tah). The entire region is covered by the Sahara desert. There are no permanent rivers.
The Western Sahara is crossed by the North Tropics, so the tropical continental climate type prevails. Average monthly temperatures range between 17-20 and 25-30 °C, with an annual rainfall of 50-200 mm.
Western Sahara has a small domestic market. Fishing, phosphate mining and animal husbandry are the main industries in the country. The dry climate and desert of the Western Sahara make agriculture almost impossible and therefore much food must be imported from other countries.
The Moroccan government administers the economy of Western Sahara. It is Morocco that is the main source of employment, infrastructure development and social spending in the country. Due to the unresolved legal status of Western Sahara, disputes continue to arise between Morocco and Polisario over the use of natural resources in Western Sahara.
Although no large amount of oil resources have been found in Western Sahara, Morocco and Polisario have been arguing over who has the right to exploit oil in the territory of Western Sahara. Today, Western Sahara’s main long-term economic challenge is to ensure industrial diversity, which could be a source of greater employment and income in the country.
According to the 2013 Western Sahara had an estimated population of 554,795. Most of them are Arabs and Arabized Berbers. Arabic is the national language of Western Sahara. And the main religion in the country is Islam.
There is currently an intensive colonization of Morocco, which aims to change the ethnic proportions in the country before a referendum in which the people of Western Sahara will decide the future of their country.