Río de Oro

Last updated
Rio de Oro (at bottom) during Spanish colonisation Morocco Protectorate.svg
Río de Oro (at bottom) during Spanish colonisation
Desolate landscape terrain in the Rio de Oro region, near the town of Guerguerat Western sahara landscape.jpg
Desolate landscape terrain in the Río de Oro region, near the town of Guerguerat
Stamp of Rio de Oro issued in 1907. Stamp Rio de Oro 1907 Alphonso XIII 3c.jpg
Stamp of Rio de Oro issued in 1907.

Río de Oro (Spanish for "Gold River"; Arabic : وادي الذهب, wādī-að-ðahab, often transliterated as Oued Edhahab) was, with Saguia el-Hamra, one of the two territories that formed the Spanish province of Spanish Sahara after 1969; it had been taken as a Spanish colonial possession in the late 19th century. Its name seems to come from an east–west river which was supposed to have run through it. The river was thought to have largely dried out – a wadi, as the name indicates – or have disappeared underground.

The Spanish name is derived from its previous name Rio do Ouro, given to it by its Portuguese discoverer Afonso Gonçalves Baldaia in 1436. The Portuguese prince Henry the Navigator dispatched a mission in 1435, under Gil Eanes and Baldaia, to find the legendary River of Gold in western Africa. Going down the coast, they rounded the al-Dakhla peninsula in present-day Western Sahara and emerged into an inlet, which they excitedly believed to be the mouth of the River of Gold (see Senegal River). The name continued to be used for the inlet and the surrounding area although no gold was found there, neither in the water of the narrow gulf, probably mistaken for the river itself, nor in its neighborhood.

Occupying the southern part of Western Sahara, the territory lies between 26° to the north and 21° 20' to the south. The area is roughly 184,000 km (114,000 mi), making it approximately two thirds of the entire Western Sahara. [1] The former provincial capital founded by the Spanish was Villa Cisneros, which was renamed under Moroccan administration in 1976 "ad-Dakhla". [2]

The Battle of Río de Oro was a single-ship action fought in August 1914 during the First World War. A British protected cruiser attacked a German auxiliary cruiser off the small Spanish colony of Río de Oro.

In 1975, as Spain retreated from the territory, Western Sahara was split under the Madrid Accords between Mauritania and Morocco, even if this division was bitterly contested by the Polisario Front. The dividing line ran halfway through Río de Oro, with Morocco taking the northern part plus Saguia el-Hamra, and Mauritania annexing the lower third of the colony as a northern province called Tiris al-Gharbiyya (Western Tiris). Its provincial capital was already called Dakhla. After a disastrous four-year war with the Polisario, Mauritania relinquished Tiris al-Gharbiyya, withdrew from Western Sahara, and left Morocco and the Polisario as the sole belligerents in the conflict, which is not yet resolved; a cease-fire has been in effect since 1991. [3]

This area is today divided by the Moroccan military berm, with Morocco occupying the parts to the west of it, and the Polisario Front-held Free Zone, under the control of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic to the east. These zones are temporary divisions negotiated as a part of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) ceasefire. [4]

Related Research Articles

The history of Western Sahara can be traced back to the times of Carthaginian explorer Hanno the Navigator in the 5th century BC. Though few historical records are left from that period, Western Sahara's modern history has its roots linked to some nomadic groups such as the Sanhaja group, and the introduction of Islam and the Arabic language at the end of the 8th century AD.

Politics of Western Sahara

The politics of Western Sahara take place in a framework of an area claimed by both the partially recognized Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and Morocco.

Polisario Front Military and political organisation in Western Sahara

The Polisario Front, Frente Polisario, FRELISARIO or simply POLISARIO, from the Spanish abbreviation of Frente Popular de Liberación de Saguía el Hamra y o de Oro, is a Sahrawi rebel national liberation movement aiming to end Moroccan presence in the Western Sahara. It is a consultative member of the Socialist International.

Dakhla, Western Sahara Place in Kingdom of Morocco, Morocco

Dakhla is a city in Western Sahara, a disputed territory currently administered by Morocco. It is the capital of the Moroccan administrative region Dakhla-Oued Ed-Dahab. It has a population of 106,277 and is built on a narrow peninsula of the Atlantic Coast, the Río de Oro Peninsula, about 550 km south of Laayoune.

Spanish Sahara Former Spanish territory of Western Sahara

Spanish Sahara, officially the Province of the Sahara between 1958 and 1976, was the name used for the modern territory of Western Sahara when it was occupied and ruled by Spain between 1884 and 1976. It had been one of the most recent acquisitions of the Spanish Empire as well as one of its last remaining holdings, which had once extended from the Americas to the Spanish East Indies.

Green March 1975 military event

The Green March was a strategic mass demonstration in November 1975, coordinated by the Moroccan government, to force Spain to hand over the disputed, autonomous semi-metropolitan province of Spanish Sahara to Morocco. The demonstration of some 350,000 Moroccans advanced several kilometres into the Western Sahara territory, escorted by nearly 20,000 Moroccan troops, Morocco later gained control over most of the former Spanish Sahara, which it continues to hold.

Saguia el-Hamra Territory of Western Sahara

Saguia el-Hamra was, with Río de Oro, one of the two territories that formed the Spanish province of Spanish Sahara after 1969. Its name comes from a waterway that goes through the capital. The wadi is inhabited by the Oulad Tidrarin Sahrawi tribe.

Southern Provinces Moroccan-occupied territory in Western Sahara

The Southern Provinces or Moroccan Sahara are the terms used by the Moroccan government for Western Sahara. These two official Moroccan denominations explicitly include all of Western Sahara, which spans three of country's 12 top-level administrative regions. A frequent use of the term "Southern Provinces" is found for example in Moroccan state television.

<i>Advisory opinion on Western Sahara</i> 1975 ICJ advisory body on Western Sahara

The International Court of Justice Advisory Opinion on Western Sahara was a 1975 advisory, non-binding opinion by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) of two questions presented to it by the UN General Assembly under Resolution 3292 regarding the disputed territory of Western Sahara. In 1969, Spain returned the region of Ifni to Morocco.

Tiris al-Gharbiyya

Tiris al-Gharbiyya was the name for the area of Western Sahara under Mauritanian control between 1975 and 1979.

Flag of Western Sahara National flag

The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, commonly known as Western Sahara, uses a national flag consisting of a black, white and green horizontal tricolor charged with a red star and crescent in the center stripe and a red chevron at the hoist. It is used on Polisario-controlled areas, while the Moroccan flag is used on the rest of the occupied territory.

Politics of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic

The politics of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic refers to politics of the Polisario Front's proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic - an unrecognized country in North Africa, controlling parts of the Western Sahara region.

"Greater Mauritania" is a term for the Mauritanian irredentist claim to Western Sahara, and possibly other Moorish or Sahrawi-populated areas of the western Sahara desert.

Western Sahara War

The Western Sahara War was an armed struggle opposing the Sahrawi indigenous Polisario Front to Morocco between 1975 and 1991 and Mauritania from 1975 to 1979, being the most significant phase of the Western Sahara conflict. The conflict erupted after the withdrawal of Spain from the Spanish Sahara in accordance with the Madrid Accords, by which it transferred administrative control of the territory to Morocco and Mauritania, but not sovereignty. In late 1975, the Moroccan government organized the Green March of some 350,000 Moroccan citizens, escorted by around 20,000 troops, who entered Western Sahara, trying to establish a Moroccan presence. While at first met with just minor resistance by the POLISARIO, Morocco later engaged a long period of guerrilla warfare with the Sahrawi nationalists. During the late 1970s, the Polisario Front, desiring to establish an independent state in the territory, attempted to fight both Mauritania and Morocco. In 1979, Mauritania withdrew from the conflict after signing a peace treaty with the POLISARIO. The war continued in low intensity throughout the 1980s, though Morocco made several attempts to take the upper hand in 1989–1991. A cease-fire agreement was finally reached between the Polisario Front and Morocco in September 1991. Some sources put the final death toll between 10,000 and 20,000 people.

Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic–Spain relations Diplomatic relations between Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and the Kingdom of Spain

Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic–Spain relations refers to the current and historical relationship between the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic and Spain.

Jira Bulahi Bad Sahrawi engineer, politician, and activist

Jira Bulahi Bad is an Sahrawi engineer, politician, and activist. She is the representative of the Polisario Front in Spain since 2016.

Moroccan settlers Settler population in the occupied portion of Western Sahara

Moroccan settlers refers to citizens of the Kingdom of Morocco of various ethnicities that have settled in Western Sahara. Following the 1975 Green March, on the course of Western Sahara conflict, the Moroccan state has sponsored settlement schemes enticing thousands of Moroccans to move into the Moroccan-occupied part of Western Sahara. By 2015, it was estimated that Moroccan settlers made up at least two thirds of the 500,000 inhabitants in the Western Sahara region.

Morocco–Western Sahara border

The Morocco–Western Sahara border is 444 km in length and runs from Atlantic Ocean in the west, to the tripoint with Algeria in the east. The border has existed purely in a de jure sense since Morocco's annexation of Western Sahara in 1975.

Mauritania–Western Sahara border

The Mauritania–Western Sahara border is 1,564 kilometres (972 mi) in length and runs from the tripoint with Algeria in the north-east to the Atlantic Ocean in the south-west.

Algeria–Western Sahara border

The Algeria–Western Sahara border is 41 km in length and runs from the tripoint with Morocco in the north to the tripoint with Mauritania in the south.


  1. Paxton, J. (2016-12-28). The Statesman's Year-Book 1971-72: The Businessman's Encyclopaedia of all nations. Springer. p. 1332. ISBN   9780230271005.
  2. Law, Gwillim (1999-10-01). Administrative Subdivisions of Countries: A Comprehensive World Reference, 1900 through 1998. McFarland. p. 412. ISBN   9780786460977.
  3. IBP USA (2006). Morocco Country Study Guide. Int'l Business Publications. pp.  26–27. ISBN   978-0-7397-1514-7.
  4. Military Agreement No. 1 Archived 2008-05-11 at the Wayback Machine

Coordinates: 23°00′N13°00′W / 23.000°N 13.000°W / 23.000; -13.000