Laayoune overview

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.

must see in Laayoune

See all must see
Laayoune is a small yet interesting city to visit. The tallest structure in Laayoune is the minaret of the new Great Mosque located just off Place Mechouar. This building is huge but open only to Muslims. It is beautifully painted in salmon pink, which is the colour of the city. Also interesting to see are two large water towers situated just off the Place Mechouar. The picturesque view of these towers alongside its unique green designs on a pink background makes it worth a camera shot. The Ensemble Artisanal is another nice place to visit. It is a collection of workshops where jewellery and artwork is made by local artists. You’ll find them in two different locations: a row opposite Place Mechouar and a few more within a building behind the Great Mosque. Take a walk around Souk ez-Zaj, and it won’t be long before you find the city’s old Spanish cathedral. It’s situated on a little square opposite the old town hall. Seguiat al-Hamra, Place Oum Saad, Souke el Djemal and Place Dchira are also nice and lively places to visit in Laayoune. You should check them out when you visit.

Food and Drinks in Laayoune

Staple food in Laayoune include simple grilled meat – lamb, camel with plenty of grease and fries. And there are lots of fresh fish soup varieties on sale every other day. European-style tearoom, coffee, patisserie and ice cream parlour services are also available. Beer, wine and spirits are available.

Top 3 things to do in Laayoune

See all