At Cape Juby, Morocco, we can see with Google Maps a rectangle of 3 km long, in which there is hundreds of little squares. What method was used to draw these squares on the sand? More importantly, why are these square drawn?

Google Maps image of area

  • $\begingroup$ Not sure this isn't off-topic, but FWIW I added an image and a better link. I'd add that for me the bigger question is the 'why' rather than the 'how'. $\endgroup$ – kwinkunks Dec 15 '14 at 18:21
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    $\begingroup$ I can think of several wild ideas. Most of them are on-topic here. So, in my opinion, unless the answer proves otherwise, I think it should be on-topic. +1 for an interesting question! $\endgroup$ – Richard Dec 15 '14 at 19:34
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    $\begingroup$ My first thought is that it could be a low-tech way of trying to measure beach erosion. I'd imagine they'd have to retrace the grid often, but it probably is a lot cheaper than commissioning orthophotography over the area. $\endgroup$ – Jason Dec 15 '14 at 19:43
  • $\begingroup$ I noticed that within each 10mx10m square there is a 5 by 4 grid of little dark spots. Still no idea what it is or how it was made, but maybe this observation will help someone else figure it out. $\endgroup$ – user1318 Dec 15 '14 at 19:56
  • $\begingroup$ @Jason I thought perhaps it was a way to keep track of shipwreck material recovered. Just a guess though. Your idea is better and would make sense since there are dunes there that could be studied. There are some funky houses at the edge of some of the squares too. $\endgroup$ – farrenthorpe Dec 15 '14 at 20:06

They are not perfectly straight. Making them with modern GPS equipment should not be too difficult, you just keep a fixed distance to the previous line. They are only 5-6 meters wide.

Googling for cape juby tarfaya sand beach experiment I found this 16 Jan 2013 entry from the blog An overland adventure mentioning:
"Between the road and the sea is another experiment to save Tarfaya from being swallowed up by the Ergs (=sand dunes), mangrove. These trees have been introduced here from the tropics as one of the few salt loving, sand rooting toughs. They seem quite young from the window of the truck so I am guessing it is too early to tell if the project has been a success."

Maybe this is what you are seeing. I have contacted the blog writer to ask for confirmation. Update: The author confirmed that this is indeed what you're seeing: "Yes. Shame there is no picture."

Subsequent Googling for tarfaya mangrove turns up more info (often in French, where palétuvier is indeed mangrove), e.g. this Les mangoves du Sahara chapter from the Book Maroc 8 - Sud du Maroc et Sahara Occidental. This Lonely Planet E-Book PDF Marokko Reiseführer which is almost a literal translation, mentions a 900 meter long strip, but the artifact in the picture is approx 3.2 km.

The planting project was named The Manzanar project

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks a lot for this answer and the link to the overland adventur blog. When I saw the picture of this old building, I understood why they are fighting against erosion. So much to learn from a simple question about strange squares! $\endgroup$ – MagTun Dec 16 '14 at 9:59

It's an effort to help stymie sand dune erosion. It appears this photo was taken early before the grass or straw took root.





  • $\begingroup$ The pictures accompanying these articles do not match grids of 5-6 meters wide. $\endgroup$ – Jan Doggen Dec 15 '14 at 22:19
  • $\begingroup$ The Chinese use grass but the Moroccans use trees, but the idea behind seems the same. Thanks for these links! $\endgroup$ – MagTun Dec 16 '14 at 10:06
  • $\begingroup$ @JanDoggen Fair enough. Your answer was spot on. $\endgroup$ – ckoerner Dec 16 '14 at 15:51

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