Laayoune Travel Guide

  • Place Oum Saad, Laayoune
    Place Oum Saad, Laayoune
    by maykal
  • Dunes, Laayoune
    Dunes, Laayoune
    by maykal
  • Spanish Cathedral, Laayoune
    Spanish Cathedral, Laayoune
    by maykal

Laayoune Things to Do

  • More on the dunes

    Things to look out for on the dunes are the lakes in the distance, flamingoes (apparently...I didn't see any), swimming dogs, snakes (I was told by one person that these can be deadly, but several others told me there were no snakes in that area...who to trust?), military installations (be careful when up on the ridge...there is a large army camp,...

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  • Climb the dunes

    If you're feeling energetic, head past the makeshift football ground and climb the dunes. It is hard work in the heat (I was there in January, and it was still hot enough to make me sweat), and don't forget to buy some water before you set off. The dunes immediately behind the football ground are great to climb, but for somewhere a bit more...

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  • Football in the Desert

    Most afternoons, a local football team uses a patch of flat hard sand in the Seguia as a training ground, and this is the most obvious place to head for, as there is a path across to the dunes. The football teams use the dunes in their training...running on sand is one of the hardest activities, but combining that with climbing up a hill and you...

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  • Seguiat al-Hamra

    It's easy to forget that Laayoune is in the desert. All the best viewpoints are hidden away in locked parks, and the few visitors who find their way to Souk ez Zaj are put off admiring the views by the piles of rubbish. A shame, as this is the city's backyard, an area well worth exploring. between the sand dunes and the city is the Laayoune's...

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  • Place Dchira and the souks

    Place Dchira is a lively square of cafes and restaurants. At night, the place is heaving with people, and is the start of the nightly parade up and down the main street. the centre of the square has been taken over by a cafe complex called Las Dunas, quite an upmarket place, but I preferred the streetside cafes with tables on the pavement as a...

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  • Place Oum Saad

    Another huge Moroccan square, this one during the week can seem a bit pointless. The size of several football fields, Place Oum Saad has a semi-covered walkway all the way round, something that actually looks quite striking from a distance. Apart from a small funfair in one corner, the rest is just sandy wasteland...or so I thought.Heading back to...

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  • Take a walk through the suburbs

    Laayoune is a city for walking, and it is quite a relaxed place just to wander off on your own and explore. certain areas are potentially off limits, such as the slums on the very edge and some military areas, but you're pretty much free to go wherever you want, despite the claims of a handful of kids. Be careful what you photograph...

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  • Souk el Djemal

    I'm told this is supposed to be the liveliest part of town, but I think the area south of Place Dchira is probably livelier after dark. Anyway, this part of town is almost like an extension of Souk ez Zaj, a few old spanish relics dotted around but mainly new apartment blocks and lots of shops, small cafes and grills. A few fruit and vegetable...

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  • Spanish Cathedral

    wander around Souk ez-zaj, and it won't take you long to find the old Spanish cathedral. It's on a little square opposite the old town hall, which is now something to do with the police, explaining the many policemen who hang around the park on the square looking at everyone with suspicion. There's nothing to stop you sitting down and taking photos...

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  • Souk ez Zaj

    The oldest part of town (don't expect anything medieval, as Laayoune was only founded in the 1930s), Souk ez Zaj is an interesting place to wander round. It is quite a poor district, and a lot of the houses are crumbling away from neglect, although the city planners have got certain roads and squares blocked off for renovation...I'm not sure if...

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  • Ensemble Artisanal

    All Saharan towns have an Ensemble Artisanal, which basically means a collection of workshops where jewellery and artwork is made by local artists. In Smara, I enjoyed my trip to the ensemble artisanal, as it was with a local friend who knew a lot of people working there, so the artists were very welcoming and friendly. In Laayoune, the workshops...

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  • Monument to the Green March (Al-Massira...

    In 1975, as the Spanish pulled out of the Sahara, the Moroccan government organized a march of civilians from just over the border in the tiny village of Tah. 300,000 civilians poured into Laayoune and the surrounding area to settle and claim it for Morocco. If you take the road north of Laayoune towards Tarfaya and Tan Tan, you'll pass through Tah...

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  • Water Towers

    These two water towers just off Place Mechouar aren't exactly monuments, but they're strangely picturesque with green designs on a pink background. I'm not entirely sure if I was meant to photograph these or not, as there were a few soldiers standing guard around the bottom, but what's the point in having a good zoom if you don't use it?!

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  • Great Mosque

    The tallest building in Laayoune is the minaret of the new Great Mosque, just off Place Mechouar. Not much to say about it really, as it looks just like all the other huge mosques the Moroccan government is buidling at the moment (Smara has one, as does Dakhla). In keeping with much of Laayoune, it has been painted salmon pink, which, as a colour...

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  • Place Mechouar/Sahat Mishwar

    One of the strangest public spaces I've seen in the Arab world, Place Mechouar is the showpiece of Moroccan Laayoune. Four salmon pink towers with tiles stand in the corners, connected by what are supposed to be tented walkways (a nod to Sahraoui culture?) but look more like some sort of modern airport terminal architecture. At night, the place is...

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Laayoune Transportation

  • Grand Taxis

    Grand taxis are useful for points north and east. There are frequent taxis heading to Tan Tan (3 hours) and Smara (2 hours), fewer going to Goulimime (5 hours...if things look a bit slow, try going to Tan Tan and changing there), some land rovers going to remote outposts in the desert (as a foreigner, i doubt you'd be allowed to travel on these),...

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  • Buses

    You can reach Laayoune by bus from Agadir (11 hours) and Marrakesh (15 hours), with buses stopping in Inezgane, Tiznit, Goulimime and Tan Tan. Coming from the south, buses from Dakhla take just over 9 hours, passing through Boujdour. Getting on a bus in Laayoune is a bit more complicated. All the buses originate in either Agadir/Marrakesh or in...

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  • Laayoune Hotels

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Laayoune Warnings and Dangers

  • maykal's Profile Photo

    by maykal Written Jan 24, 2010

    2.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Laayoune has been under Moroccan occupation since 1975, and as far as you are concerned, you are in Morocco. This is not the place to come and wave your Western Sahara flags, as you will get into serious trouble. The Sahraouis do occasionally demonstrate against the occupation, but if you hear of this happening, go elsewhere. If you don't, the police will ask you to move anyway, so save yourself the hassle. I came close to witnessing a demonstration, shortly after Friday prayers by the great mosque, but the area was quickly cordoned off.

    Talking about local politics is not the way to make friends in Laayoune.

    On a side note, keep your passport with you at all times. As Laayoune can feel a bit like one large army garrison at times, you never know when you might stray into a military area by accident, or run into a checkpoint (e.g., if you climb the dunes and walk along the ridge on the other side, you might need to show your passport and answer a few questions at the bridge back into Laayoune).

    Lest you forget where you are....

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