Semara Travel Guide

  • Prayer hall
    Prayer hall
    by maykal
  • Spanish tiles in the mosque
    Spanish tiles in the mosque
    by maykal
  • Spanish mosque, Smara
    Spanish mosque, Smara
    by maykal

Semara Things to Do

  • maykal's Profile Photo

    by maykal Written Feb 20, 2010

    Smara doesn't have a museum, but this place comes close, acting as a sort of museum of Sahraoui culture. Hidden away behind a military complex and not signposted at all, the ensemble artisanal is a collection of little workshops where Sahraoui crafts past and present are made by local Sahraouis. The most obvious place to start is by chatting to the cheery women weaving a traditional goatshair tent in the courtyard. As I entered, one of them began to "yuyuyuyuyuyuyu" loudly as she threw a ball of wool at me. At first I was a bit alarmed, but Tawfiq explained that this is a typical Sahraoui greeting...if the object thrown hits you, it means you are obliged to sit and chat for a bit. After a chat and a photo opportunity (I was only allowed to photograph from behind), we then moved on to see some of the other craftsmen hammering away at pieces of metal and wood. One was making daggers, another made teapots, a third invited us for a tea ceremony. Sahraoui tea is different to the standard mint tea in the rest of Morocco...to make a good cup of Sahraoui tea, you need to pour it several times into each cup from a great height, forming a froth on top. Maybe the froth makes the tea lighter somehow, but I definitely preferred this to the powerful and sometimes bitter brew served up in cafes.

    It was all very interesting, and everyone was friendly and welcoming, but it all felt a bit sterile. They were keen to promote Sahraoui culture, but out in the streets of Smara, one of Western Sahara's bigger towns, there's very little evidence of anything Sahraoui...UN vehicles swoosh around town in big clouds of dust, Moroccan flags fly over Moroccan army barracks, the Moroccan king stares down from billboards, and most people in the streets are originally from Marrakesh or Agadir or other points north. Anything Sahraoui is kept firmly behind closed doors, relegated to ensembles artisanals like this.

    Making tents, Ensemble Artisanal, Smara Making teapots, Ensemble Artisanal, Smara Making teapots, Ensemble Artisanal, Smara Sahraoui tea, Ensemble Artisanal, Smara Ensemble Artisanal, Smara

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  • maykal's Profile Photo

    by maykal Written Feb 20, 2010

    Smara doesn't have a museum, but this place comes close, acting as a sort of museum of Sahraoui culture. Hidden away behind a military complex and not signposted at all, the ensemble artisanal is a collection of little workshops where Sahraoui crafts past and present are made by local Sahraouis. The most obvious place to start is by chatting to the cheery women weaving a traditional goatshair tent in the courtyard. As I entered, one of them began to "yuyuyuyuyuyuyu" loudly as she threw a ball of wool at me. At first I was a bit alarmed, but Tawfiq explained that this is a typical Sahraoui greeting...if the object thrown hits you, it means you are obliged to sit and chat for a bit. After a chat and a photo opportunity (I was only allowed to photograph from behind), we then moved on to see some of the other craftsmen hammering away at pieces of metal and wood. One was making daggers, another made teapots, a third invited us for a tea ceremony. Sahraoui tea is different to the standard mint tea in the rest of Morocco...to make a good cup of Sahraoui tea, you need to pour it several times into each cup from a great height, forming a froth on top. Maybe the froth makes the tea lighter somehow, but I definitely preferred this to the powerful and sometimes bitter brew served up in cafes.

    It was all very interesting, and everyone was friendly and welcoming, but it all felt a bit sterile. They were keen to promote Sahraoui culture, but out in the streets of Smara, one of Western Sahara's bigger towns, there's very little evidence of anything Sahraoui...UN vehicles swoosh around town in big clouds of dust, Moroccan flags fly over Moroccan army barracks, the Moroccan king stares down from billboards, and most people in the streets are originally from Marrakesh or Agadir or other points north. Anything Sahraoui is kept firmly behind closed doors, relegated to ensembles artisanals like this.

    Making tents, Ensemble Artisanal, Smara Making teapots, Ensemble Artisanal, Smara Making teapots, Ensemble Artisanal, Smara Sahraoui tea, Ensemble Artisanal, Smara Ensemble Artisanal, Smara

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  • maykal's Profile Photo

    by maykal Updated Feb 20, 2010

    Cross the wasteground in front of the zaouia, trying to avoid any drunks who gather under the shade of the few scraggly diseased-looking trees, you'll find a tiny monument to a French adventurer. In 1930, Michel Vieuchange was apparently the first European to reach Smara (I've read things that contradict with this, as it seems the Spanish had been in the area much earlier, but for a few years at least, entry to Smara for non-Muslims was strictly forbidden). He endured a camel trek from the coast which almost killed him, all because he was slightly obsessed with reaching this desert outpost. The monument reads "I'll carry/put up with anything, I'll sleep anywhere, a single goal, to reach Smara". Well, he made it, not that it did him much good...on the jorney back to the coast, he became ill with dysentery, and died shortly after arriving in Tarfaya.

    Michel Vieuchange Monument, Smara Michel Vieuchange Monument, Smara Zaouia from the monument

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Semara Transportation

  • maykal's Profile Photo

    by maykal Written Feb 20, 2010

    Smara isn't a popular destination, neither for tourists nor for Moroccans, so i had to wait a few hours for transport heading this way. From Goulimime, there weren't enough passengers for Smara, so after waiting an hour, the driver filled his vehicle with passengers for Tan Tan, where two of us transferred over to another taxi. For ages, there were just three of us heading to Smara, then suddenly just as I was giving up hope of reaching Smara that day, there was a run of Smara-bound passengers with a mountain of bags. Undaunted by the huge pile of bags and a tiny boot, the driver and several onlookers became creative with bits of string, and after a good few hours' wait, we were finally ready to cross the desert to Smara. The trip took 3 hours, and passed through three checkpoints where I had to get out and show my passport, answering a whole host of questions. Smara used to be off-limits, but has now opened up to tourism...however, tourists are still very thin on the ground, so any foreigner is likely to be questioned at length. It's all very polite and civil, and giving tourism as a reason for your journey is fine...but it is time consuming.

    Leaving Smara, grand taxis leave for Laayoune (3 hours) and Tan Tan whenever there are enough passengers...I waited about an hour for my Laayoune-bound taxi to fill up.

    The bus/grand taxi station is north of the main road, through the meat market and behind a newish mosque, close to Smara's stadium.

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