El Aaiun Profile

El-Aaiún, also known as Laâyoune, with its population of just under 200,000 is the largest city in the disputed territory of Western Sahara and is seen by the Polisario Front, a nationalist movement, as the capital of the as yet internationally unrecognised Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. El Aaiún is currently the capital of Laâyoune-Boujdour-Sakia El Hamra, one of sixteen regions of the Western Sahara administered from Morocco as it had been since 1939 during Spanish colonial rule. El-Aaiún was founded by the Spanish in 1928 following an agreement with the French in 1900 that the Sahara would be French territory whilst the two regions of Rio de Oro (River of Gold ~ actually there was none) and Saquiet el Hamra would remain Spanish. However Spain had little interest in them and even by 1952 El-Aaiún was still a tiny settlement, though its interest in the area was rekindled when significant phosphate deposits were found south of the town in 1947. Over the next two decades Spain invested in mining facilities including a 74 mile 'conveyor belt' to transport the phosphates to the nearest port.

Morocco took control of El-Aaiún in 1975 from colonial Spain when Morocco's King Hassan II marched 300,000 Moroccans into the disputed territory and Spain, sidetracked by its own domestic issues, signed the Madrid Agreement, pulling out of the area. Its destiny remains in dispute despite a ruling by the International Court of Justice in 1975 that the local Saharawi population had a right to self determination. Today El-Aaiún, which is seen as an occupied city by the Polisario Front, houses a large Moroccan military garrison, a modern mosque, a bird sanctuary and in the main square of Place du Mechouan, an exhibition remembering the Green March of 1975 that sparked the Western Sahara War of 1975-1991 between Morocco and the Polisario Front.

View Larger Map


El Aaiún: This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license


El Aaiun Profile

El Aaiun Profile

El Aaiun Profile

El Aaiun Profile



Volunteer Work Western Sahara

Check out all the latest African volunteer work placements and openings in Western Sahara.
More >


El Aaiún

El Aaiún

El Aaiún is in the disputed territory of Western Sahara and is claimed by Morocco whilst the Polisario Front continue to press for the territory to become an independent nation as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. Whatever the outcome, the city is administered by Morocco at present and its only senior football team, Jeunesse Massira, plays in the Morrocan football league.


Volunteer Work

African Volunteer Work Opportunities

Get Your
Free Listing!

African Volunteer Directory

Latest TEFL
Jobs in Africa

TEFL Jobs in Africa

Sponsor a

Sponsor a Child Western Sahara