An Industrial Town in the Desert

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Flag of Morocco  , Guelmim-Es Smara,
Wednesday, February 5, 1992

From Boujdour I head back north to El Ayoun, as there simply aren’t any more towns to discover along this vast stretch of emptiness—except one: El Ayoun Port. This sounds like just an extension of El Ayoun proper, but no, "Marsa El Ayoun (1106, November 15, 2 hrs, 3.8 kms)" is its own independent town. And it definitely deserves it. Before the town itself, there’s a vast, industrial area. This is where the world’s longest conveyor belt carrying phosphate from the Boukra mines reaches the sea—but there’s a lot of other industry here as well. Clearly the idea was to create a lot of jobs in this region to encourage Moroccans elsewhere in the country to move this direction.

Of course, there are downsides: fore example, there’s not enough water, so truck bringing water all the way from Tan Tan go up and down the streets, filling up peoples’ jugs and tanks. And then there are those nastly sandstorms blanketing the town with sand.

Marsa el Ayoun has a definite "working class" feel, with plenty of cheap eateries. But it also has one classy boulevard and gateway to the city.

The collective taxi to El Ayoun (0247, POST, 2 hrs, 6.1 kms) drops me off at the south end of town, so I figure it’s an excuse to explore the town a little more. I pass the stadium where there are several riot police vans outside… I continue on into town, where I go ahead and buy my ticket to the last city I need to visit in the South Sahara: Smara… then head out to look for a new neighbourhood to explore.

At the west side of town, there are a couple narrow alleys leading down to the high school just as school is letting out. Here I see a couple fellows playing guitars, so I join them and soon we’ve got a little jam session going. These fellows are from other parts of Morocco whose fathers work here in El Ayoun. They don’t seem to mind life here—although there is tension between out of towners and locals here at the high school.

I continue on, wandering around the west side of El Ayoun looking for the unique dome shaped houses I remember from my last visit. No luck… but I do get a nice view of the lake… Yes, there is a lake here in the middle of the desert…
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