Desert and Ocean

Layoune (Western Sahara), 16.04.2014

A first look out of the window revealed a cloudy sky and bad weather. The breakfast on the terrace of the hotel was decent, but temperatures chilly. Some Belgian and Dutch travellers were checking their 4×4 for the day while loading their micro-dogs and bags into the vehicles. I got some bread in a bakery and hit the road again, inland towards Guelmin, driving up into the mountains. A herd of sheep stopped me at some point, before I drove over an hour to Tan Tan without further excitements.

The great part of the day started once the road started to run parallel to the ocean after Tan Tan. The landscape had changed to stone and then sand dune desert pretty quickly, and I spent hours driving by the sea. All around were dunes of all sizes, with their soft shapes and sand clouds washing over the tarred road. Every now and then a beach passed by. If I had come here with an offroad vehicle, this would have been places to stay for some days and enjoy the sea. I passed several people who did this, some even went kitesurfing on one of these lonely beaches. Simply beautiful. The sun had come out in the morning in the end, and a few clouds looked like they got painted on a bright blue sky.




For a late lunch I stopped at a roadside grill, ordered “a manger” and got olives, salad and fried fish (150 Dh). Then came more desert, more dunes, more heat. The villages got scarcer, smaller, shabbier, poorer. I saw few people around, just the occasional fisherman on the rocks over the sea. Tents or makeshift shelters seemed a common housing around here, I didn’t understand if permanent or temporary. The few people I saw wore long light robes with hoods, and covered their heads with cloth. At the Khenifiss National Park the road briefly took a turn inland, taking me around a huge wetland that shimmered like a mirror in the bright sunshine. At some point I saw a stranded ship close to the shore and stopped for some pictures. I was close to the border with Western Sahara and was curious what I would find. I found – nothing.




Once I opened Google maps again on the iPad I learned I had crossed the border long ago without even noticing it. At the last police stops they registered my passport and asked questions, but police were friendly. The further I drove south, the poorer the area got. Then I reached the beach town of Layoune, the first major town in Western Sahara. The houses were in bad shape, windows smashed, construction half finished, everything was run down and poor. But there were people on the streets, bathing on the beach, praying in the sunshine. I left the sea towards Layoune, hoping to find some accommodation. The town itself was big but miserable. I noticed some UN jeeps and other vehicles. And I found a hotel on the main street where plenty of them parked. I checked in, the room was comfortable and a real hotel, unlike the night before. I had to rush dinner to watch Real beat Barça 2:1 in a great final of the Copa del Rey, with a mainly pro-Real crowd of locals.

Trip data

– Km driven: 526

– Hours on the road: 8,5

– l diesel/100km: 5,6