El Aaiún

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: African Geography

El-Aaiún or Laâyoune (Arabic: العيون, transliterated al-`ayūn), is the main city of Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony now mostly administred by Morocco. It is the capital of the Laâyoune-Boujdour-Sakia El Hamra region. El-Aaiún 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 used in Moroccan literature. The Arabic name means "the springs" (or "the eyes").

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.

In the spring of 2005 Sahrawi demonstrations and riots demanding the release of common law and political prisoners 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.

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

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