The capital of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic or Western Sahara, is Laayoune. The name El Aaiún is the phonetic adaptation to Spanish of the Arabic name al-‘Ayyūn (العيون), which means the fountains or springs, which gave the area its name before the founding of the city by the Spanish.
The ancestors of the current Sahrawis were tribes from Yemen in the 15th century, which crossed the north of the African continent and temporarily settled in the Western Sahara region. The following centuries were rewarded with disagreements and contradictions between the tribes who came from other places, since a fundamental characteristic in their residents has always been a strong attachment to their roots and independence ideas. This situation managed to stabilize in the 18th century when Saguia el Hamra it became known as the “Land of the Saints”, a place for learning and apprehending mystical knowledge, which managed to attract people who sought to appropriate valuable information
The region was only inhabited by nomadic tribes because of the scarce and irregular rainfall; in addition, they lived with herds that grazed where possible. They also grew their food in somewhat more fertile land and close to small water reserves. The religion they practiced was Islam and their traditions, customs and laws were based on the Koran. The populations close to the Sahrawi tribes were different in relation to them from the cultural and ethnic point of view. They were in constant movement through the desert and their routes were governed by stations, wells and water sources, so they did not have borders or limits in their travels.
In the 16th century, Ahmad al Mansor, the Sultan of Morocco, after an economic motivation ordered the sending of an expedition to conquer Timbuktu. This sultan eagerly desired resources from the area, such as: salt, gold and silver. The expedition was made up of numerous caravans that followed the same path and influenced the region in a unique way, however the descendants of this union quickly adapted to the characteristics of the local population. Timbuktu spent almost a century paying tributes to Morocco, but then this ended. Throughout the years there were contacts between the two regions of a cultural and religious nature, among others, but they were not significant in terms of territorial sovereignty between Morocco and Western Sahara.
Africa at that time had many tribal societies, within them, the Saharawi. However, it had specific characteristics in terms of governance, since the Assembly of Forty was the one that represented the people, in which there was a representative of each of the Sahrawi tribes. Each of which was divided into sub-tribes that possessed surprising autonomy. The tribal society was very well structured as a unit and they had “kafirs”, that is, official representatives for the tribes in Algeria, Moroccoand Mauritania.
Relations with Spain during the 19th century were marked only by issues related to fishing in the Canary Islands, as the Spanish wanted to protect the archipelago. To ensure its domination in 1884, Spain proclaimed a protectorate from Cabo Blanco to Cabo Bojador and in 1885, at the Berlin Conference, which established the division of Africa among European forces, it ratified this proclamation.
Resistance to Spain
In northwestern Africa, France was the dominant power and had claims to further extend its dominions. In 1886 a series of negotiations began to determine the exact limit of the territories belonging to the French and the Spanish. The agreements and exchange of criteria were extended for a period of 4 years, that is, in 1900 the first Franco-Spanish secret treaty was signed, to continue with other later secret agreements in 1904 and 1912.
According to shoppingpicks.net, the resistance of the Saharawi people was intense from the first moment, even against the French invasion. The French intended to bring Malainin from Mauritania to Western Sahara, where he would lead a coalition of tribes from Mauritania, Wadi Dahab, and Saguia el Hamra. Malainin was a leader of recognized prestige and in 1905 he asked the Sultan of Morocco to support the resistance of the tribe in the Jihad (holy war) against the invaders.
The monarch accepted French imperialism, but his help was limited to the loan of some weapons. Faced with weak Moroccan opposition to the invaders, Malainin, renewed the exploits of the Almoravids, and opposed the Moroccan king.
The city of Marrakech was conquered, however, the warriors were stopped on their march to Fez in 1910 by the French army, which had already established itself in Morocco. By possessing control of Morocco, France intensified its military offensive in Mauritania. Numerous raids were made within Saguia el Hamra and France subsequently took revenge on Sheikh Malainin and his son, Al Hiba.
The struggles continued until 1936 and Wadi Dahab and Saguia el Hamra, which had resisted all attempts at pacification for 40 years, are threatened by France that they would occupy these territories. This threat led to Franco-Spanish military cooperation to destroy the resistance movement in northern Mauritania and throughout the “Spanish Sahara” and Spain took possession of its colony in 1936.
Cooperation between France, Spain and Morocco culminated in 1958, with the military action known as Operation Ecouvillon. The Sahrawi fighters, who had supported the Moroccans, Mauritanians and the Algerians, asked Morocco for help in their liberation struggle against France. The Sahrawis had the help of the Moroccans, but without any kind of conviction, so they betrayed them, cut off their supplies and ammunition. Spain, as a result of this, rewarded Morocco with the current province of Tarfaya, south of the Moroccan border, which was until then under Spanish rule and inhabited by Sahrawis.