Western Sahara, formerly Spanish Sahara, a region in northwestern Africa. It makes up the southernmost provinces of Morocco. Most of the region's area of 102,700 square miles (266,000 km2) is barren, rocky desert, inhabited only by a few nomadic Arabs and Berbers. There are large phosphate deposits in the north.
Spain occupied the coastal parts of the region in 1884 and gradually extended its sovereignty into the interior. In 1958 the region was made an overseas province of Spain. In 1976, under pressure from Morocco and Mauritania, Spain yielded the region to the two countries. Mauritania relinquished its claim in 1979, and the entire region came under Moroccan administration. The people of the region, desiring independence, resisted the takeovers and won support in the United Nations, which does not recognize Morocco's control.