Western Sahara (S3.10)

S03E10 – Western Sahara Audio

In this episode of 80 Days: an exploration podcast, we’ll be talking about Western Sahara, a disputed territory in North-West Africa. Home to roughly 550,000 people and bordered by Morocco to the north, Algeria to the east, Mauritania to the south and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Western Sahara is partially controlled by the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and partially Moroccan-occupied, and is often called ‘Africa’s last colony.’

Map of Western Sahara's position on the west coast of Africa, between Morocco and Mauritania

Map of Western Sahara’s position on the west coast of Africa, between Morocco and Mauritania

First colonised by Spain in 1885, the territory’s sovereignty has been fiercely disputed for decades, particularly since 1975, when Spain officially relinquished its claim over the region. Today it is alternately known as Morocco’s Southern Provinces or the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, however, we’ll be referring to the region as Western Sahara throughout most of this episode. At roughly 260,000 square kilometers or 100,000 square miles, Western Sahara is about the size of the US state of Colorado or just slightly larger than the UK. The territory consists mostly of uninhabitable desert, and nearly 40% of its inhabitants live in Laayoune, the largest city in Western Sahara, while up to 100,000 people from the region are currently living in refugee camps in neighbouring Algeria.

This episode, the Finale of Season 3, is our first Patreon-nominated and voted-on episode. Thanks to Erik Tastepe, in particular, for suggesting this interesting location and to all of you who voted. Join us over on www.patreon.com/80dayspodcast to have a say in the direction of future seasons or get access to various awards.

Your hosts, as always, are Luke Kelly @thelukejkelly in Hong Kong, Mark Boyle @markboyle86 in the UK, and Joe Byrne @anbeirneach in Switzerland . (Theme music by Thomas O’Boyle @thatthomasfella)


In this episode, we carried out an extensive interview with Nick Brooks (@WSaharaProject), a climate scientist, who has worked over many years in Western Sahara, co-directing a project with archaeologist Jo Clarke. This “Western Sahara Project” has led to a recently-published book on the topic (see here). Nick also has a very interesting blog about his time spent there, the politics of the situation and related topics called “Sand and Dust”. Beautiful photo galleries of all the archaeological discoveries from the research project in the desert have been shared on Flickr.

Here are a few things you may want to read/watch more about:

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