Place Mechouar is possibly the nicest place in Laayoune - it's one of the two large squares I have seen, but this is not in the central part of the city but rather towards the outskirts - it's a beautiful and peaceful square and it's made up of 4 towers and the papace of Justice (not in the photo). All around it there are several benches where you can sti down and relax, and hundreds of baby palm trees.
Whenever there's an important event going on in Laayoune, it is in this place that it is held. There are some large and sturdy white tents there, all year round, with nothing under it... just waiting for an event to happen. Right after the square, there's the city entrance gate... and past that... the desert.
the entrance gate
If you (most likely) are coming from the airport, or from any point north, the first sight you'll catch of Laayoune is its three-arched entrance gate - a modern gate, like Laayoune itself. Actually, no - if getting to Laayoune by daylight, the first sight you'll catch will be that of the police checkpoint just before entering town. We arrived and left at night - in both cases there was no checkpoint, which made very little sense to us.
Anyway, back to the arch. You'll soon notice the white and pink colour- once in town you'll also notice that nearly all buildings are painted in the same hues... which makes it quite pretty, in fact. And right after the arch, you'll be in the most scenic corner of the city, Place Mechouar... This town for sure knows how to give visitors a good impression.
the "new" mosque
The "new" mosque is also known as the Firday mosque - but it is still unclear to me as why it is called new... I have seen other mosques in town, and - while this was significantly larger and more beautiful than the others - it did not look one day younger than the others.
The location is excellent - right by the town's entrance and near mechouar place, which would be where parades and celebrations would be held. Though much simpler it somehow reminded me of the great mosque in Casablanca. Maybe because it is also located on a quite wide open space.
I'm not sure that non-muslims can visit it - our "new" friend Abdullatif took us to see the mosque from the outside, but did not volunteer to take us inside.
the artisan center
The artisan centre in Laayoune town is two places, not one - and both are located on the opposite sides of the mosque. On one side you can see the artisans at work in they workshops; as they don't see many tourists, they will likely be happy to answer any question you may have. Go there late in the morning as these workshops don't seem to be pressed to open.
On the other side of the square - and mosque - there's the real artisan centre, a row of shops lined upby the side of the road selling local handicrafts and Marrakech postcards. Prices are low and negotiable, in theory - in practice I have noticed that in Western Sahara pople tend to ask you for such low prices in general, that starting to haggle and bargain really seems unnecessary or out of place.
Place de la resistance
Place de la resistance is another beautiful square in Laayoune. It's very much different from place Mechouar, where everything is empty and quiet. This place is busy and right in the centre of town - but in the middle there's a area with some pleasant open air cafes and restaurants where you can sit down and have a drink or a snack.
Everything you may need can be found around this square: the post office, several banks, bookshops, a souvenir shop (incredible) and even the bus station.
Suuq Djemal is a very lively and interesting area in Laayoune, for two reasons. The first reason is its peculiar architecture - some constructions have eggshell-domed roofs; apparently they are designed this way to keep the houses a bit cool in summer.
Everything that can be useful is sold in Suuq Djemal, which is also called the chicken market. The reason for this is simple: there are many shops selling chicken - not dead chickens as you'd buy in a butcher's shop... chickens that are alive and kicking. You choose one, the salesman grabs it by the neck, fetches it ad hands it to you, as you wish it, dead or alive.