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Desert of Deserts

12th February 2004

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Desert of DesertsDeep in the heart of the Saharan desert more than 180,000 people have been living as refugees in Algeria for almost thirty years.

But for one day every year the world comes to them to take part in a another endurance test – to run a marathon.

This thought-provoking documentary was filmed during last year’s marathon which coincided with celebrations of moves to create a separate Western Saharan state in this remote corner of Africa.

The plight of the refugees, the exposure of their hopes and their optimism for the future are intercut with the gruelling marathon set in the wind, beating heat and searing beauty of the Sahara.

The film was made by volunteers who have a passion for this story to be told. Producer/Director Blanca Pena had been to the area 10 years ago as a student and promised one day to return to tell the story of the refugees.

Twenty five years ago, over 100,000 Sahrawi refugees fled into the Algerian desert when Morroco invaded Western Sahara after Spain ended its colonial rule. They settled southeast of Tindouf, Algeria, far enough from Morroco so that the refugees would be safe from surprise attack.

With no where else to go, these refugees have been using their traditional knowledge and determination to keep their families alive and community together until a U.N. sponsored referendum on self-determination can be voted on by the Sahrawi people living in the camps and in occupied Western Sahara.

From this flight into the desert, temporary cities of canvas tents, clay buildings and salt water gardens have risen from the desert sand. In the Bedouin tradition, these camps are highly organized and run mainly by the Sahrawi women. Their principal focus has been to provide a sense of home to the children and give them an education while trying to keep them healthy and fed in a very difficult situation with very little resources.

The Sahara Marathon is a benefit race to help bring attention to the needs of these children and provide them the medical, nutritional and educational care they desperately require.

It’s probably too late to sign up for this year’s Sahara Marathon, which runs at the end of February. However you can donate money to support a runner there. The distance is 5k, 10k, a half marathon or the full marathon.

Why not start getting ready for next year!


Sahara Marathon
The Sahara Marathon is a benefit race to help bring attention to the needs of refugee children in Western Sahara, and provide them the medical, nutritional and educational care they desperately require.

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