Smara is a town in Western Sahara.
Smara was founded as an oasis for travellers in 1869. Later, in what was then Spanish Sahara, Smara become a garrison town. In 1975, Morocco took control of Saguia Elhamra province as Spain withdrew. The Moroccan army took the city from the Polisario Front in 1976. There is a 1991 cease-fire between the Polisario Front and Morocco, overseen by the United Nations' MINURSO forces. Not an active war, not a peace settlement.
The town is enclosed by a section of the Moroccan Walls, also known as the Berm, a fortification stretching an approximately 2,700 km from Morocco trough Western Sahara. Its position, which part of it is actively manned and guarded, where the minefields are located; this information is for obvious reasons not handed out. If you get to close to it you will be told to turn around. Walking off the road and into the landscape could cost you a leg or your life.
There is a strong Sahrawi presence in the town. There is a equally strong Moroccan military presence in the town. This situation creates some tension. Tourists are rare in Smara. You will therefore get some attention. But not pushy, aggressive, as in parts of Morocco.
CTM, Supratours and Satas companies have daily travels to Smara to Agadir. Supratours have daily travel to Smara from Laayoune.
The town is small and most places can be reached by foot. There are also small taxis running within the town. The bus station may have small mini-buses going to local destinations.
Smara is divided by its 1 military airport; you will most likely spend some time in its eastern part.
- 1 Mosquée Cheikh Maouelainin (Zawiy Maalainin) (in the center of the city). Remains of a stone fortress, which enclosed a mosque. This is what is left after Sahrawi rebellions against Spanish and French colonial rule.
Remains of Smara as Spanish garrison town can be seen in the domed military barracks, at the west end of Boulevard Hassan II.
Some cafés along the town's main road, Boulevard Hassan II, offer food like omelettes, sandwiches, and pizza. Across that street, in the market area, are a couple of places serving barbecued meat (camel, sheep) and fresh salad. Fresh bread, tinned sardines and bottled water may be a safer choice, and can easily be bought in small stores.
Bottled water or boil tap water and make tea. Water out of the tap is only for the brave.
The town's main road is Boulevard Hassan II, and most hotels are on it. If one does not want to host you, for any reason, ask them for a recommendation - you'll be pointed at a decent place where you get a room for about USD15.
Ask the police/military at exit points for the road ahead. When they tell you not go to a some way, just don't do. Roads to Akhfenir and to Laayoune are easy to and probably the safest to follow. All other roads basically go straight through the desert - there are no road signs, and unless you really know how to follow GPS signals, you are putting your life at risk.