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El Aaiún

Related subjects: African Geography

Background Information

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El Aaiún
Downtown view of El Aaiún
El Aaiún is located in Western Sahara
El Aaiún
Location in Western Sahara, Morocco
Coordinates: 27°9′13″N 13°12′12″W
Country Morocco
Claimed by Western Sahara and Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic
Region Laâyoune-Boujdour-Sakia El Hamra
Population (2006)
 • Total 188,084
NASA photo of El Aaiún.

El-Aaiún (also transliterated "Laâyoune" or "El Ayun")(Arabic: العيون, transliterated al-`ayūn), is a city in Western Sahara and a former Spanish colony. Occupied by Morocco since 1976, El-Aaiún is the capital of the Moroccan region of Laâyoune-Boujdour-Sakia El Hamra. It is also claimed by the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic as their de jure capital. The city is located at 27°9′13″N 13°12′12″W (27.153611, -13.203333).


The city has a population of 188,084 and is the largest city in Western Sahara. It is a growing economical pole in what Morocco sees as its Southern Provinces. Its population is a mixture of Moroccans from the North as well as Sahrawis from Southern Saharan Morocco and natives of Western Sahara.


"El Aaiún" is the transliteration of the Arabic name used as the Spanish name for the city. "Laâyoune" is a French transliteration even used in Moroccan literature. The Arabic name means "the springs".

In the area south of Tindouf, Algeria, there is a Sahrawi refugee camp named El-Aaiun, after this city.


The United Nations mission for the referendum, MINURSO, which administers the ceasefire settlement of 1991 between Morocco and the Polisario Front, has its headquarters in the city.

Beginning in the spring of 2005, the Independence Intifada began demanding the release of political prisoners and demonstrations in favour of independence took part in some parts of the city, and a trend towards opening up the closed territory seems to have been broken off, with several expulsions of foreign journalists and human rights delegations, accused by the Moroccan authorities of serving as a pretext for the pro-independence activists to step up riots.

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