The two-dimensional structure and the optical properties of Saharan dust and maritime aerosols have been investigated over the Mediterranean Sea during October 2001 using airborne and satellite observations. A new airborne downward looking multispectral (490–2200 nm) micropolarimeter (MICROPOL) is used to derive the aerosol optical thickness and effective radius. We present two case studies corresponding to the observations performed during a mineral dust transport from the Sahara to Europe and to an undisturbed marine boundary layer. The dust plume is associated with aerosol optical thickness above 0.2 (at 865 nm), whereas relatively low loading conditions are observed in the maritime case (down to 0.1). The MICROPOL-derived aerosol optical thickness is in an excellent agreement with coincident Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) retrievals for both days. The effective radius retrieved by MICROPOL is also in a good agreement with the one from MODIS in the dust case. In the pure maritime case, this parameter is significantly underestimated by MICROPOL compared to MODIS retrieval. The vertical distribution of aerosol optical parameters is derived from combined two-wavelength backscattering airborne lidar observations and MICROPOL passive measurements. As expected in the case of a long-range transport, the aerosol effective radius within the dust layer is rather constant as a function of the altitude. A surprising low lidar depolarization factor of about 4% is retrieved within the dust plume, suggesting a major contribution of spherical particles. No significant depolarization has been observed in the marine boundary layer. For the given geometry of observation the retrieved aerosol models, which are based on the Mie theory, reproduce the MICROPOL polarized measurements within 5–8% in the dust and maritime case. The use of a nonspherical model increases by a factor of 2 the residual fitting error in polarization in the case of the dust observation. This result is confirmed by the lidar depolarization ratio and indicates that a large part of particles in the dust plume are spherical.