The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






History of Western Sahara



Algeria which borders the eastern side of Western Sahara has provided evidence of remarkable workmanship in tool-making as early as 30,000 BC. Early remnants of hominid occupation have been found in Ain el Hanech, near Sada (ca. 200,000 B.C.). Later, Neandertal tool makers produced hand axes in the Levalloisian and Mousterian styles (ca. 43,000 B.C.) similar to those in the Levant. According to some sources, prehistoric Algeria was the site of the highest state of development of Middle Paleolithic flake-tool techniques. Tools of this era, starting about 30,000 B.C., are called Aterian (after the site Bir el Ater ), south of Annaba in the north-eastern corner of Algeria. These tools are marked by a high standard of workmanship, great variety, and specialization. See Prehistory of Central North Africa.

The Western Sahara has never been a nation in the modern sense of the word. Phoenician colonies established or reinforced by Hanno the Navigator have vanished with virtually no trace, and the increasing desertification of the Sahara, before the camel was introduced in north Africa at the beginning of the 1st millennium AD, made sporadic contact with the outside world almost impossible. The camel revolution made this region one of the main routes of transport of the world. Salt and gold were transported between North Africa and West Africa.

Islam arrived in the 8th century and was an immediate success. Al-Murabitun, also known as the Almoravides, were a group of strict Koranic interpreters from this region who ended up controlling all of North Africa.

More recently, Ma-al-Aynayn started a counter insurgency against the French in the 1910s. He was finally beaten when he tried to conquer Marrakesh.

Spanish Sahara

In 1884, Spain claimed a protectorate over the coast from Cape Bojador to Cap Blanc. The area was later extended. In 1958 Spain joined the previously separate districts of Saguia el-Hamra (in the north) and Ro de Oro (in the south) to form the province of Spanish Sahara.

See also Lagouira.

1975 till present

On November 6, 1975 the so-called Green March into Western Sahara began when 300,000 unarmed Moroccans converged on the southern city of Tarfaya and waited for a signal from King Hassan II of Morocco to cross into Western Sahara. As a result, Spain abandoned Western Sahara on November 14, 1975, repatriating even the Spanish corpses from its cemeteries. Morocco later virtually annexed the northern two-thirds of Western Sahara (formerly Spanish Sahara) in 1976, and the rest of the territory in 1979, following Mauritania's withdrawal. On February 27 1976, the Polisario Front formally proclaimed the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), and set up a government in exile. A guerrilla war between the Polisario and Morocco ended in a 1991 cease-fire; a referendum on final status has been repeatedly postponed.

November 6 is now a holiday in Morocco, the Anniversary of the Green March.


  • Forthcoming.

External links

Sources for timeline:

Last updated: 06-02-2005 12:16:07
Last updated: 08-17-2005 15:41:37