Scattered along the coast of Western Sahara are a handful of fishing villages - or rather, semi-permanent camps. We visited a few - two because they were walking-distance from towns we were staying in, and three others all in one afternoon as we searched for fresh fish (and someone who could cook it).
On the day we visited the three camps, we were on our way north from Bir Ghandouz, where we stayed after our brief jaunt to the southern border. After less than an hour of driving, we spotted what appeared to be a village right on the coast, which would certainly have somewhere we could get fresh fish. A few kilometers of off-roading later, we arrived at a run-down fishing village in our sand-covered rental car. Well over a hundred small, single-room tent-like structures stood side-by-side in rows. There were two or three old cars parked nearby, and a few motorcycles. Dogs ran barking around our car, and a few men at the opposite end of the camp watched us out curiously.
Still hoping we could get some fresh fish, we parked near the edge of the camp on a hill overlooking the beach and walked down towards the ocean, where tens of fishing boats were lined up in the sand. A few men were working on some of the boats, and looked up as we walked past. We greeted a man standing nearby. He warmly welcomed us, and asked with amusement why we were there - continuing to explain that they never have tourists stop by the village. We explained that our motivation was twofold: One, we were genuinely interested in seeing the fishing villages and the people who live and work there. Two, we were looking for a place to eat some fresh fish. He was touched knowing that we wanted to see what life is like in the fishing villages; places which are obviously so often overlooked by visitors, and seemingly by the occupation government as well (the conditions of the camps are truly shocking). As we spoke with the fisherman, others joined. We asked them questions, and they told us about their lives.
Some days, they send the boats out in the middle of the night to fish, rowing kilometers into the ocean, and returning up to eight or nine hours later. Other days they leave at daybreak, and endure the scorching sun out on the water. Some days the catch is good, other days they return nearly empty-handed. Most of the men at the camp have families living hours away in villages or cities, and they typically only visit them every few months.
After a while of casual conversation, the men invited us to join them for lunch. We thanked them but kindly refused, as we did not want to burden them, and were also conscious of the long drive ahead of us (though after leaving we immediately regretted that decision). As we were saying our goodbyes, one of the men went behind a boat and came back carrying a white sack filled with fish that had just been brought in. We tried to negotiate a price, or a smaller quantity of fish, but the fishermen were persistent, and insisted on gifting us the fish (5 or 6 full-size fish in total). We thanked them profusely, wished them well, and took a few photos for memory's sake before getting back on the road.