Laâyoune ( , also , ) or El Aaiún ( , ; Hassaniya Arabic: , romanized: ; ber|ⵍⵄⵢⵓⵏ|Leɛyun; ar|label=Literary Arabic|العيون|al-ʿUyūn/el-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 peacekeeping mission MINURSO. 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".

Zemla uprising

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.



Laayoune has a hot desert climate (Köppen climate classification ''BWh''), moderated by the Canary Current with an average annual temperature of almost .


Laayoune has a population of 217,732 and is the largest city in Western Sahara. It is a growing economic hub.

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 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.

Diplomatic missions

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.


File:Mosque moulay abd el aziz laayoune.jpg|Mosque of Moulay Abd el Aziz File:Laayoune Cathedral 2011.jpg|The old Spanish Cathedral of Saint Francis of Assisi, chiefly serves European UN personnel File:Street view from Laayoune 2011.jpg|Avenue Makkah al-Mukarramah File:Monumental Arch, Laayoune.jpg|Monumental arch near the airport File:Road to Laayoune Port.jpg|Road To Laayone Port, the roads are well developed. File:Royal Air Maroc loading.jpg|A Royal Air Maroc At Hassan I Airport. File:Laayoune Bus Station.jpg|Laayoune bus station.

Twin towns and sister cities

* Algiers, Algeria (''Since 2001'') * Almería, Spain * Avilés, Spain * Caracas, Venezuela (''Since 12 August 2005'') * Málaga, Spain * Montevideo, Uruguay (''Since 13 December 2009'') * Lorca, Spain * Sorrento, Italy (''Since 18 April 2009'')

See also

*List of cities in Western Sahara


External links

Official TV channelOfficial radio channel
{{Authority control Category:Municipalities of Morocco Category:Populated places in Laâyoune Province Category:Populated places in Western Sahara Category:Capitals in Africa Category:Regional capitals in Morocco Category:Provincial capitals in Morocco Category:Populated places established in 1938 Category:1938 establishments in the Spanish Empire