Western Sahara

Western Sahara is one of the most sparsely populated territories in the world, mainly consisting of desert flatlands.The Atlantic coast is a bleak and often windswept region, but has a stark beauty of its own. If it ever opens up, the desert inland could be a wild region to explore.

Population 268,000
Ethnic groups Arab, Berber
Religions Muslim

The legal status of the territory and the question of its sovereignty remains unresolved; the territory is contested between Morocco and Polisario Front representing the native Sahrawi people. It is considered a non self-governed territory by the United Nations.

Demonstrations and protests were still occurring in March 2006. The Polisario Front has intermittently threatened to resume fighting, referring to the Moroccan refusal of a referendum on independence as a breach of the cease-fire terms, but most observers seem to consider armed conflict unlikely.

Western Sahara has no railways, and only 6,200km of roads, of which 1,350km are metalled.The economy is centred around nomadic herding, fishing, and phosphate mining. Most food for the urban population is imported. All trade and other economic activities are controlled by the Moroccan government.

Geography and People
The terrain is mostly low, flat desert with large areas of rocky or sandy surfaces rising to small mountains in the south and northeast. The climate is hot, dry desert; rain is rare, cold offshore air currents produce fog and heavy dew on the coast.

The Sahrawis are traditionally nomadic bedouins. The Polisario-controlled parts of Western Sahara are barren and have no resident population, but they are travelled by small numbers of Sahrawis herding camels, going back and forth between the Tindouf area and Mauritania. However, the presence of mines scattered throughout the territory by both the Polisario and the Moroccan army makes it a dangerous way of life.

(edited. Wikipedia, BBC, The Africa Guide, Bradt)
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