The N1 road from Tan Tan to Laayoune hugs the coast, passing over dramatic oued mouths and through sand dunes as it rolls down through the southernmost slice of Morocco. The only towns of note are Akhfenir and, 3km off the road, Tarfaya. The Western Sahara starts at the village of Tah, where a red granite monument flanking the road commemorates the 1975 Green March (see Economic and social problems). Once south of the border, you begin to traverse real sand desert – the Erg Lakhbayta – before crossing the Seguiat al-Hamra (a wide and usually dry river) to enter Laayoune.
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TARFAYA is a quiet little fishing town (population 6000) that’s probably not far different from its years as a staging post for the Aéropostale Service – when aviators such as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (author of Night Flight and The Little Prince) used to rest up here on their way down to West Africa.
Oddly enough, Tarfaya was actually founded, at the end of the nineteenth century, by a Scottish trader named Donald Mackenzie, and was originally called Port Victoria after Britain’s queen. Mackenzie had a fort built, now known as Casa Mar, which is just offshore – a few metres’ swim at low tide. The Spanish called the town Villa Bens. These days Tarfaya is a lazy, do-nothing place. The main street, Boulevard Ahmed el Hayar, running roughly east–west through the town centre, has two banks (with ATMs), a handful of cafés, and a couple of internet offices (one next to Attijariawafa Bank).
The Aéropostale air service is commemorated annually in October by a “Rallye Aérien”, with small planes stopping here on their way south from Toulouse to Dakar. A monument to Saint-Exupéry in the form of a plane stands at the northern end of the beach. Nearby, a Musée Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (Mon–Fri 8.30am–12.30pm & 2.30–5pm; 10dh) has exhibits on the air mail service that Saint-Exupéry pioneered, but (despite being in the formerly Spanish zone of an Arabic-speaking country) with explanations in French only.