Laâyoune (// lah-YOON, also UK: /-/ ly-, French: [la.ajun]) or El Aaiún (/ ( ) / EL eye-(Y)OON, Spanish: [el (a)aˈʝun]; Hassaniya Arabic: لعيون, romanized: Laʕyūn/Elʕyūn; Berber languages: ⵍⵄⵢⵓⵏ, romanized: Leɛyun; Literary Arabic: العيون, romanized: al-ʿUyūn, lit. 'The Springs') is the largest city of the disputed territory of Western Sahara, with a population of 217,732 in 2014, and de facto administered by Morocco. The modern city is thought to have been founded by the Spanish captain Antonio de Oro in 1938. In 1940, Spain designated it as the capital of the Spanish Sahara. Laâyoune (El Aaiún) is the capital of the Laâyoune-Sakia El Hamra region administered by Morocco under the supervision of the UN peace-keeping mission in Western Sahara (MINURSO).
Location in Western Sahara
|Coordinates: 27°9′13″N 13°12′12″W|
|Non-Self-Governing Territory||Western Sahara|
|Region||Laâyoune-Sakia El Hamra|
|• Total||21 km2 (8 sq mi)|
|Time zone||UTC+1 (CET)|
The town is divided in two by the dry river of Saguia el-Hamra. On the south side is the old lower town, constructed by Spanish colonists. A cathedral from that era is still active; its priests serve this city and Dakhla further south.
Laâyoune or El Aaiún are respectively the French and Spanish transliterations of the Maghrebi Arabic name Layoun which means "the water springs".
The town was the scene of the Zemla Intifada that occurred on June 17, 1970 that culminated in a massacre, resulting in the deaths ranging from 2 to 11 people.
Economy and status
The city is a hub for fishing and for phosphate mining in the region. In 2010, the country was negotiating a new fishing agreement with Europe over offshore fishing.
The football club of the city is Jeunesse Massira. The club plays in the Moroccan Premier League, the highest football league in the country. Jeunesse Massira uses Stade Sheikh Mohamed Laghdaf for training and games.
Laayoune is served by Hassan I Airport.
There is a Spanish international school, Colegio Español La Paz, owned by the Spanish government. It occupies a 17,000-square-metre (180,000 sq ft) property. In 2015 the parents' association, Asociación de Madres, Padres y Tutores de Alumnos del Colegio Español La Paz (AMPA), asked for the establishment of secondary education so their children would not have to go to Las Palmas or Morocco to continue their education.
On 18 December 2019, Comoros became the first nation to open a consulate in Laayoune in support of Moroccan claims to Western Sahara. In January 2020, Gabon opened a consulate general in Laayoune. Later on, São Tomé and Príncipe, the Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Burundi, Eswatini, Zambia, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain, also opened consulates in Laayoune.
- Mosque of Moulay Abd el Aziz
- The old Spanish Cathedral of Saint Francis of Assisi, chiefly serves European UN personnel
- Avenue Makkah al-Mukarramah
- Monumental arch near the airport
- Road To Laayone Port, the roads are well developed.
- A Royal Air Maroc At Hassan I Airport.
- Laayoune bus station.
Twin towns and sister cities
- "POPULATION LÉGALE DES RÉGIONS, PROVINCES, PRÉFECTURES, MUNICIPALITÉS, ARRONDISSEMENTS ET COMMUNES DU ROYAUME D'APRÈS LES RÉSULTATS DU RGPH 2014" (in Arabic and French). High Commission for Planning, Morocco. 8 April 2015. Retrieved 29 September 2017.
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- Santana, Txema. "El colegio español en El Aaiún pide ciclo de secundaria" (Archive). El País. April 10, 2015. Retrieved on May 1, 2016. "Lagadaf Lahsen, presidente del AMPA del centro educativo, asegura que es “la única forma de evitar” que sus hijos “se vayan a otras ciudades de Marruecos o a Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, además de que no se pierda el español en el Sáhara”." and "[...]una instalación de 17.000 metros cuadrados que es propiedad del Estado español[...]"
- "First foreign diplomatic post opens in Western Sahara". Arab News. 18 December 2019.
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- "Cote d'Ivoire Opens General Consulate in Morocco's Laayoune". Morocco World News. 18 February 2020.
- "Burundi Opens General Consulate in Laayoune". Morocco World News. 28 February 2020.
- "Eswatini Opens Consulate General in Laayoune, Southern Morocco". Morocco World News. 27 October 2020.
- "Zambia Opens Consulate General in Morocco's Laayoune". Morocco World News. 27 October 2020.
- "UAE Officially Opens Consulate General in Morocco's Laayoune". Morocco World News. 4 November 2020.
- "Bahrain Opens Consulate General in Laayoune, Southern Morocco". Morocco World News. 14 December 2020.
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- Ayuntamiento de Málaga (ed.). "Official website for Malaga's candidature for European capital of culture in 2016". Archived from the original on 2009-03-22. Retrieved 2008-04-02.
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- "El Ayuntamiento de Lorca denuncia la agresión de Marruecos contra el Pueblo Saharaui" (in Spanish). Murcia.es. 2010-11-12. Retrieved 2013-02-11.