So long and thanks for all the fiche
Trip Start Jun 04, 2012
173Trip End Apr 04, 2013
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We surmised that we had crossed into Western Sahara (the boundary is a dotted straight line on the map) when we received hourly visits from the Moroccan police entering the bus and asking to see our passports. They were very polite invariably asking if we spoke French (one of them smilingly told us "English may be the world's premier language, but out here you should speak French") before switching to English
The passport checks continued in the morning but we were asked to accompany the officials to their offices. We even had the company of a British mother-daughter duo who boarded at Laayoune. I guess the officials on the nighttime checkposts were being kind in letting us stay in our seats.
The scenery through the ride was an unchanging desert that stretches till the ocean. We had asked for seats on the left side of the bus to view the desert but this had the downside of having the sun on our side during the first afternoon (due to the westward movement of the bus from Marrakech to Agadir) and the second morning as well
The former Spanish colonies of Spanish Sahara constitute much of what is known as Western Sahara today. When Spain abandoned the region (which is just endless desert and coastline) in 1975, Morocco and Mauritania staked their claims. Despite the UN classifying the territory as disputed, Morocco staged the Green March with 350,000 Moroccans marching south to stake historical claims. Mauritania withdrew its claim soon. The Polisario Front's guerrilla war against the Spanish was now turned against the new occupiers but were soon stamped out after they lost support of their international allies. A ceasefire was arranged by the UN in 1991 but the region's disputed status is still unchanged. The Polisario Front's self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) has the support of 82 states and is a member of the African Union, while Morocco has won support from several Africa governments and the Arab League. Over the past decades, support from various groups has been extended and withdrawn according to changing international trends. For all practical purposes, Morocco controls the region. The UN has a significant presence in Laayoune and Dakhla
The town of Dakhla lies just north of the Tropic of Cancer. It involves a detour onto a 40 km peninsula jutting into the Atlantic Ocean
The town itself is still being built with new neighbourhoods springing up from the sand. We had a confused arrival due to the presence of a 4-star hotel bearing the same name as our choice but a helpful woman who was on the bus with us put us on a taxi to the right one. We did not have the benefit of an offline iPhone map for Dakhla and so needed this help. Soon after our arrival at the hotel, the staff hooked up us with our "chauffeur" for our next morning's ride across the border to Mauritania on a maroon Mercedes. We managed to find some well earned coffee but found all the eateries only offered beverages. Hotel Samarkand (!) was the only open business that seemed to offer food and thankfully they had something for us.
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Note: We've only started to upload some past videos of the trip. Link to Youtube playlist