Mostly low, flat desert with large areas of rocky or sandy surfaces rising to small mountains in south and northeast.
Hot, dry desert; rain is rare; cold offshore air currents produce fog and heavy dew.
Nationality: Sahrawi, Sahrawian, Sahraouian. Population: 538,811 (July 2013 est.). Language: Hassaniya Arabic, Moroccan Arabic.
Has a small market-based economy whose main industries are fishing, phosphate mining, and pastoral nomadism. The territory's arid desert climate makes sedentary agriculture difficult, and Western Sahara imports much of its food. The Moroccan Government administers Western Sahara's economy and is a key source of employment, infrastructure development, and social spending in the territory.
Traditionally living nomadic lifestyles relying on livestock for survival, Sahrawis share many cultural similarities with neighboring Hassaniyya Arabic-speaking Moors in Mauritania.
Legal status of territory and issue of sovereignty unresolved; territory contested by Morocco and Polisario Front (Popular Front for the Liberation of the Saguia el Hamra and Rio de Oro), which in February 1976 formally proclaimed a government-in-exile, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), near Tindouf, Algeria, led by President Mohamed ABDELAZIZ.
US Military Presence/Support