Sunday, 10 April 2016

Western Sahara Place Names Explained

Having blogged samples of my books on English place names and also examined the etymologies of the nations of the world and their respective capitals I thought it time to cast my net a little wider. This time should have been East Timor, as I'm running through the list in alphabetical order, but admit being unable to find sufficient information to fill much more than the back of a stamp - albeit a large stamp. Hence we jump towards the end of the alphabet and look at some of its largest settlements and most interesting names of Western Sahara.

Laayoune is from the Maghrebi Arabic name of Layoun, literally meaning 'the water springs'. The modern form is due to French influence, although under the Spanish this became El Aaiun with the same meaning.

Cape Bojador is sometimes found by its Portuguese name of Cabo Bojador and occasionally given as Cape Bojador. While this is said to mean 'the bulging cape', this can be discounted as it is simply wrong and such is only ever written when suggesting origins of the name. Correctly this is a Portuguese corruption of the Arabic Abu Khatar meaning 'the father of danger'.

Guelta Zemmur is from the Tamazight language and means 'the olive tree pool'.

Bir Lehlou comes from Hassaniya Arabic, where bir lahlu speaks of 'the sweet water well'.

La Guera, clearly of European influence, comes from the Spanish Aguera and describes a ditch used to bring rainwater to the crops - basic irrigation. Today the town is abandoned, save for a military post, and is slowly being engulfed by drifting sands.

Note the spellings of the places are English as the piece is written in English.

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