Laayoune, also spelt El-Aaiún, is a city located in the desert of the Western Sahara. Established in the 1930s by the Spaniard, the city earned popularity between 1940 and 1976 when the Spaniards administered the territory as its Spanish Sahara. At this time, it was the headquarters of the Spanish Western Sahara and was used as its administrative, military and European population centre. The city’s name is an Arabic word meaning “water sources”. For many years, after the Spaniards left, the administration of the territory was bitterly contested by the Kingdom of Morocco and the Polisario Front Independence Movement (and government of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic or SADR) until 1991 when the UN broker a ceasefire between the warring parties.
Relatively, peace has returned to the city with quite a number of UN Peacekeeping Forces situated there. Presently, there are about 200,000 people in Laayoune. The city is getting back its vibes after the conflict years and it is gradually opening up for tourism. Laayoune is a very clean city with growing commerce. Its restaurants, street cafes, hotels, financial institutions, handicraft and souvenir shops are tailored to take care of everyone’s need. The city has been a cynosure of many movie directors’ eyes, some of whom have used it as location for different blockbusters. Some examples include Prince of Persia 2010 and March or Die 1977 by Director Dick Richards; and The Mummy 1999 by Director Stephen Sommers.