Territory in northwestern Africa. The area is 266 thousand km2. It consists of two provinces: northern – Seguiet el-Hamra (82 thousand km2) and southern – Rio de Oro (184 thousand km2). Population approx. 260 thousand people (2000). The language is Arabic. The administrative center is the city of El Aaiun (110 thousand inhabitants, late 1990s).
Geography of Western Sahara
In the west it is washed by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. It borders on Morocco in the north, Algeria in the northeast, and Mauritania in the southeast and south.
The surface is flat, flat in the west and elevated in the east. The height of the Mauritanian Adrar plateau is 300-350 m, in the northeast, near the Atlas Mountains, the height reaches 823 m above sea level.
There are no permanent rivers. Soils are stony and sandy desert. The vegetation is mainly shrubs and herbs, mainly creeping grass species. Near rare oases and in the lower reaches of the drying river (ueda) Hamra, various types of acacias, arborvitae, palms, ficus (fig tree) grow. Fauna: wild boars, mouflons, antelopes, small rodents, lizards, snakes; there are cheetahs, jackals, hyenas.
The main wealth is phosphorites. In terms of their reserves (10 billion tons, or 1/4 of the world’s), Western Sahara ranks second in Africa. The largest deposit is Bu-Kraa (reserves – 3.4-3.7 billion tons). In 1988, production was increased to 2 million tons. There are also deposits of iron (400 million tons), copper and zinc ores, mercury, potassium salt, manganese, oil, uranium, titanium, and vanadium.
The climate is tropical, desert, on the Atlantic coast – mild, humid.
Population of Western Sahara
According to Countryaah, population in 1990 is approx. 180 thousand people. During 1990-2000 the population increased by 44.4%. The indigenous population, consisting of 21 nomadic tribes – approx. 80 thousand people Ethnically, they are Arabs and Arabized Berbers who speak Hassaniya, one of the dialects of the Arabic language.
The dominant religion is Sunni Islam.
State structure and political system of Western Sahara
Morocco exercises civil-military administration in the Saharan territory. To maintain its military presence, the kingdom annually sends huge funds for the size of the country to Western Sahara, reaching 20% of the budget, and is intensively building housing, industrial enterprises, a new seaport, schools, hospitals, and infrastructure facilities. The administrative center of Western Sahara, the city of El Aaiun, has turned into a large city. Every 7 out of 10 residents of the city are Moroccan citizens.
At the same time, the overwhelming majority of the Sahrawis (170,000 people) of the formerly nomadic Bedouin Sah-Ravi tribe have been living since 1975 in the northeast of Western Sahara, in the region of the city of Tindouf, near the border with Algeria. In this part of the Sahara desert, people have never lived at all. They are placed in tent camps and experience financial difficulties. The average life expectancy among them does not exceed 40 years. Elderly men are employed in handicraft workshops; women – in tailoring workshops; girls – in hospitals, in teacher training centers and kindergarten teachers. There is a strict discipline in the camps, which applies to everyone – from kindergarten students to the elderly. There is no monetary system. Food and other essentials are distributed strictly centrally. The Saharawi people are being assisted by the International Red Cross and other international charitable organizations. A campaign is being carried out to eliminate general illiteracy (a 6-year school education has been introduced, teenagers study in boarding schools). Established medical care.
Economy of Western Sahara
Before the Moroccan occupation, the basis of the economy of Western Sahara was nomadic pastoralism (breeding of camels, sheep, goats). Agriculture was poorly developed, since the areas used are extremely limited. In a few oases, the date palm was cultivated, and to a lesser extent, barley.
The coastal zone of the Atlantic is rich in fish and seafood. However, fishing in Western Sahara is rather poorly developed.
The industry is represented mainly by the development of phosphorites from the Bu-Kraa deposit. In 1987, St. 1.0 million tons of phosphorites.
The transport network is poorly developed. There is an asphalt road (1.8 thousand km) El Aaiun – Tarfaya – Agadir (Morocco), dirt roads, between Bou-Kraa and El Aaiun – a cable car 110 km long for transporting phosphorites. El Aaiun and Dakhla have seaports and airports.
The structure of foreign trade reflects the general economic backwardness. Its volume is small. Main export commodities: phosphate rock, livestock, wool, hides, table salt; imports: food, oil products, manufactured goods.