Wednesday, December 14, 2005


Curious, originally uploaded by Western Sahara Project.

A curious child, Dakhla refugee camp.

The image is from the "Free Zone" of Western Sahara, an ex-Spanish colonial territory that is disputed between Morocco and the Polisario independence movement, which represents the indigenous Sahrawi people of Western Sahara. Western Sahara is effectively partitioned between Morocco and the Polisario, who administer a state-in-exile in neighbouring Algeria, where some 160,000 Sahrawi refugees have lived since the Moroccan invastion of Western Sahara in 1975. The Polisario-controlled Free Zone is essentially uninhabited due to lack of water and the risk of renewed conflict - hence the location of the Sahrawi refugees across the border in Algeria rather than in the Free Zone.

The Western Sahara Project is an ongoing geoarchaeological project in the Polisario-controlled zone, undertaken in close collaboration with the local authorities. The aim of the project is to record and understand the archaeology of the Free Zone, in the context of past environmental change. Travel (from London) is via Algiers and the Sahrawi camps, then overland into the Free Zone.

If you have an interest in deserts, archaeology, or just in very remote and little-known parts of the world, you can VOLUNTEER to spend some time in the field assisting with the project. No experience is necessary, although experienced excavators are always welcome. Experienced excavators must cover their own costs. The cost for volunteers with no previous experience is higher, and helps to help fund the research, which is conducted on a strictly non-profit basis. The cost of participation for volunteers with no excavation experience is comparable with the costs of small-group adventure holidays such as safaris or cultural expeditions. Participation in this capacity will involve assisting with field survey and recording. While the locations are often remote, with extemely basic (and sometimes essentially no) facilities, the work is not arduous, and as a valued paying guest you will be free to do as much or as little as you feel comfortable with.

Volunteering represents a unique opportunity to visit a part of the world that is otherwise closed to outsiders, in the company of a team of specialists in desert environments and archaeology. You must be able to cope with remoteness and very basic facilities, but you will not be worked too hard, unless of course you want to be!

Photo by Nick Brooks Norwich, UK.


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