Your guide to being an expatriate in Western Sahara

Caffeinate Your Western Sahara Expat Journey: Find Essential Info and Connect with Expatriates Today!

Western Sahara is a self-proclaimed sovereign state that is partially recognized by numerous countries around the world. The territory has been a subject of a long-standing territorial dispute between Morocco and the Polisario Front - a national liberation movement - since the 1970s. This has led to a protracted conflict that has adversely impacted the region's development, economy, and social wellbeing. Despite this, Western Sahara boasts a unique cultural heritage, sprinkled with ancient ruins, vast desert landscapes, and stunning coastlines. Spanish and Berber (Amazigh) are the official languages, and Islam is the most widely followed religion.

Western Sahara

Expat destinations in Western Sahara

Demographics of Western Sahara:

Ethnic groups

Hassan and Mazagan (Amazigh): 99%


Spanish (official) 15%, Berber (Amazigh) (official) 15%, Arabic 30%

Religion Overview

The majority of the population in Western Sahara follows Islam, which came to the region with the Arab conquest of North Africa. The religion is manifested through various rituals and practices, such as prayer, fasting during Ramadan, and festivals such as Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.

Major Religions


The climate in Western Sahara is arid and desert, with minimal rainfall and extremely high temperatures in the summer months. Winters, on the other hand, are milder but still chilly, especially near the coast. The terrain is characterized by vast desert landscapes, rocky plains, and sand dunes.

Economy Overview

Western Sahara's economy is largely dependent on the fishing industry and the little farming that is possible in the arid desert. The 'Polisario National Front' - the primary political entity in Western Sahara - announced in 2020 that it aims to accelerate the process of building an economy in the territory, mainly by promoting tourism and developing the fishing industry with Russian assistance.

Key Industries

  • Fishing (tuna, mackerel, sardines)
  • Livestock farming (camels, sheep)

Major Companies

  • Hassi R'mel

Culture and Language Overview

Western Sahara is a hub of rich cultural heritage, centered mainly around the Berber (Amazigh) people's nomadic way of life. Traditional arts and crafts, including embroidery, weaving, and pottery, are still popular today. The Awsaki desert zone in Western Sahara, which covers around 80% of the territory, is marked with ancient remains, including fortified camps, stone circles, and graveyards.

Cultural Highlights

  • Gnaoua Music Festival: This festival held annually in Essaouira, Morocco, celebrates Western Sahara's traditional Gnaoua music genre that reflects Sahara's Berber heritage.
  • Marrakech Art Biennale: The Art Biennale showcases artistic creations, including iconic installations and exhibitions, that depict contemporary Saharan culture and traditions.
  • Cabo Bojador Archaeological Site: This site features ruins of an ancient Roman fort, bearing witness to the territory's former occupation by the Roman Empire.

Geography and Landmarks Overview

Western Sahara's easternmost coastline runs parallel to Morocco, with the sandy Sahara desert dominating much of the territory's arid landscape. Dakhla Bay, situated between the Atlantic and the Sahara Desert, is a UNESCO-listed biosphere reserve offering fantastic opportunities for coastal exploration, with over 250 bird species, marine life such as sea turtles, and sand dunes stretching as far as the eye can see.

Notable Landmarks

  • Dakhla Bay (UNESCO World Heritage Site): A tidal embayment with large salt flats.
  • Bir Moghrein: An immense 18th-century shipwreck on the coast of the Dakhla Province.
  • El Uedid National Park: Stretching over 40,000 acres, this wilderness park encompasses Dakhla's pristine beaches, chaparral terrain, and rare desert plants.

National Holidays

  • New Year's Day (January 1)
  • Popular Insurrection Day (27 February)
  • Mawlid Al-Nabi (Prophet Mohammed's Birthday, 12 Rabi' Al-Awwal)
  • Ramadan and Eid ul-Fitr (End of Ramadan)
  • Eid al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice)

Political Stability

The situation in Western Sahara is still precarious owing to the ongoing territorial dispute between Morocco and the 'Polisario' Front. This political instability impacts various aspects of the territory's economy, social wellbeing, and daily life, contributing to a weak infrastructure and curtailed economic development.

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