Dakhla is located at the end of a 40km narrow peninsula on the Atlantic Coast about 340 miles south of Laayoune, in Morocco’s Western Sahara. Unlike most of Morocco, this part of the Sahara was founded by Papal bull in 1502, and travellers to Dakhla will find a village that is closer to the Canary Island experience than North Africa. This is visible in the lovely white houses that line the labyrinthine streets, fascinating architecture that is a mix of Spanish colonialism and Berber history and – less tangible but no less important – the warm welcomes that are so familiar in North Africa.
The city is fairly remote – over 1,300 km west from Essaouira. This remoteness, along with the abundantly rich waters made Dakhla covetable for takeover. This came officially in 1884 when Spain formally founded the (then) fishing village and named it Villa Cisneros. Dakhla was declared the capital of one of the two Spanish Saharan regions, and a military fortress and a Catholic cathedral were built (both of which remain as tourist attractions to this day). The fortress was also home to a prison camp during the Spanish Civil War of 1936 to 1939, where politically active Republican writers including Pedro Garcia Cabrera were imprisoned.
Home to the desert, ocean waves, diverse wildlife, Dakla is also home to a Sahraoui camp in the desert, which is exclusively nomadic and centred on dromedaries. In recent years, the city has restyled itself as a mecca for kitsesurfers, in order to attract a younger demographic.