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Dakhla, the western Sahara in Morocco

the view of the beach in Dakhla of Morocco in the southern sahara

Introduction:

Dakhla is located in Western Sahara, a contested territory of the world. It has long been debated whether it belongs to Morocco or should be recognized as an independent country. My goal when I travel is to support the local economy and infrastructure. I have no political objectives. Our journey to Dakhla was fully self-funded, with no assistance from any corporate, government, or organization. I recognize that there are people on both sides of this debate, and I respectfully request that you refrain from expressing your political opinions in the comments part of this page.

Dakhla is a medium-sized city 400 kilometers north of the Mauritanian border with a population of little more than 100,000 people. The city is built on a peninsula that extends down from the mainland, creating a lagoon area famous for kite surfing and wildlife watching. Unlike the rest of Morocco, this part of the Sahara has been under Spanish control for hundreds of years and has close ties to the Canary Islands. Dakhla was named the Spanish Sahara’s capital.

The region’s recent history and context are complex. In the 1960s and 1970s, both Mauritania and Morocco exerted pressure on Spain to relinquish the territory.

Beginning in 1975, it was considered jointly controlled by the two countries, but neither recognized the other, resulting in the Western Sahara War, which lasted from 1975 to 1991 when an UN-sponsored ceasefire went into effect. The bulk of the land is now administered by Morocco, however, an inner portion is managed by the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, which is led by the Polisario Front, a disputed third-party participant.

I appreciate that this all looks a bit concerning, however, Dakhla is a very safe city with lovely beaches. Apart from kite surfers, the bulk of tourists is Moroccans.

Dakhla has a temperate year-round climate, so you won’t be as hot as in other regions of the Sahara. One thing to keep in mind is that it may be quite windy. It may not be the best option for a beach vacation if you have little children, but if you have energetic adolescents, they will like all of the possibilities.

Dakhla in Morocco beach at western sahara

Is it safe to go to Dakhla?

“Is Dakhla safe?” is the most often asked question I’ve received while planning our trip. There is a lot of material available on this subject. I can only speak from personal experience and discussions with Dakhla locals.

I was never threatened or in danger.

Many people like to stay in beach resorts, which are small, quiet communities. If you visit Dakhla, you will find the locals to be kind and inviting. Dakhla is a breath of fresh air for women who visit Morocco and find other cities to be a nightmare in terms of street harassment. No nasty comments were made to me even though I was sitting alone outside. In my perspective, this was completely unique.

Certain areas should be avoided, just as they would in any other destination. The interior territories held by the SADR are not advised. Also, if you intend to visit Mauritania, you should be informed that traveling in convoys from regions south of Dakhla to the border is suggested (and, according to some reports, required).

If you wish to rent a car in Dakhla, take in aware that GPS coverage is limited – after all, this is the Sahara, and there are few paved roads. Many of the pathways are unlabeled and dirt. I shook my head many times, puzzled as to how anybody found their way. Driving off-road when you don’t know where you’re going is not a good idea since some of the area is still mined.

Interesting read: When is the best time to visit Morocco?

How to Get to Dakhla

There are limited options for going to Dakhla due to the considerable distance. It is also one of the most expensive tourist destinations. Here is how to get there:

By airplane

Dakhla is serviced by both domestic and international flights. There are direct flights from Agadir and Casablanca, and Royal Air Maroc links you from other areas of Morocco to these locations. Domestic flights are rather expensive, with round-trip tickets costing about $200 per person.

Air Arabia currently provides many lower-cost flights from Marrakech to Dakhla. If you’re going to make the journey, this is an excellent option.

Seasonal international flights arrive from France and Germany, as well as the Canary Islands. Dakhla’s airport is TINY. You won’t get lost or arrive too early for your flight since there is just one runway and one little terminal.

Using the bus

Supratours, CTM, and the less priced SATAS offer bus service to Dakhla from major Moroccan cities. Tickets are around 500 dirhams and cannot be purchased in advance. Remember that this is a long journey. The distance between Marrakech and Dakhla is around 1,400 kilometers, and the bus journey takes at least 24 hours.

Traveling by Automobile

This is the journey to take if you want to have a memorable road trip. The voyage will take you at least two days, with a break in the midst. It should also be expected that you may face multiple police stops along the way, so obey all traffic laws and be prepared for this. You should also avoid driving at night since there are no lights and you can run into a camel crossing the road.

Dakhla’s Best Attractions

At first glance, there didn’t seem to be much to do in Dakhla, yet we ran out of time to see everything!

Kite surfing in Dakhla.

There are hundreds of hotels and resorts in the area that specialize in kite surf programs. There are also many more outfitters that just supply kite surfing equipment and transportation to kite surfing areas.

There is something for everyone, whether you are a beginner or a seasoned gamer. To save money on kitesurfing, look at package deals that include housing, board, and equipment. If we didn’t want the bundle, we could take 8 hours of kite surfing lessons for 300€, or around 80€ per hour.

Do you have questions regarding what to dress for the beach? I’ve got you covered with these great swimsuits and coverups.

La dunes Blanche

So I wasn’t sure about it, but we were told we had no choice but to watch it. It’s basically a huge sand dune in the middle of a lagoon. The water recedes as the tide goes out, exposing a large stretch of land. The tide encircles the dune but only gets so far up.

It’s both odd and interesting! This is a great spot to see migratory birds, and we were told that kite surfers use it as a jumping-off point into the lake when the tide is high. If the water level was high enough, I could see it being fun to use as a natural slide!

Imlil:

I think this is one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen. The Imlili Desert is around 100 kilometers south of Dakhla. In the heart of this parched environment, there are 160 natural saltwater ponds known as Sebkhas. Furthermore, these water holes are home to little saltwater fish.

Freshwater wells are also nearby, attracting herders and wild animals. It’s both bizarre and intriguing to see. The ocean is not far away (maybe 20 kilometers), and there are several beautiful beaches to visit before returning to the city.

The tea of Sahraoui

If you succeed, this is an experience that every traveler in the region should have. Saharawi tea is manufactured and eaten in a distinctive way. It requires a LOT of pouring and 3-4 cups of tea, each of which tastes somewhat different. This was one of my favorite activities since it gave me a cultural experience. Be prepared for a long procedure; I believe it took more than an hour!

See the Dakhla Souk:

In contrast to Marrakech, there is a small souk in Dakhla city that you should visit. This city has a much wider selection of goods to purchase than other cities. Melhfa fabric (the lightweight wraps used by Saharawi women), Saharawi loose tea, acacia sap for sweetening tea, and el Aych, a kind of grain/cereal popular in the area, were among the products I bought. I wish we had been able to remain for a longer amount of time!

Dakhla oyster farms

Oysters are one of the region’s most significant exports, largely to Europe, although local farmers are attempting to promote Moroccan interest in this dish. The site makes sense; since the lagoon is a protected area, the water and surroundings around the oysters are very clean.

All harvesting is done by hand, and great care is taken to ensure the safety of the oysters. We visited in the morning and afternoon; we observed staff gathering and checking the oysters in the morning, but by the afternoon, the water had risen and they were completely buried.

The farm of the ostrich family

I’m sure this farm has a name, but I’m not sure what it is! We came for a brief visit to see these odd birds, which are raised and either exported abroad alive or used for meat in high-end restaurants. I wouldn’t linger very long, but at 10dh per person and if you can catch it when it’s open (like with many things in Dakhla, schedules seem to be loosely maintained), it’s worth a visit on your way into Dakhla.

You’re curious about Dakhla Beach. So, here’s the situation. Yes, Dakhla has several beautiful beaches. There is also a great deal of wind. So I wouldn’t come here if all I wanted to do was lay on the beach and get a tan – because you’ll be buried with sand. Sorry!

Where should I dine in Dakhla?

Staying at one of the kitesurf hotels will almost probably be all-inclusive. This is a decent option if you don’t have transportation in and out of town since it’s quite a distance and most resorts aren’t very near to anything. However, after a time, the food may get boring. In such cases, here are a few ideas for places we loved!

BEWOK Asian Dakhla Westpoint

You will be allowed to access this restaurant if you make a reservation. It serves Asian food, which is a welcome sight if you’re tired of the same old things, and the sushi is fantastic!

Ntifi

This is a little restaurant in the center of Dakhla. Our driver took us here for Friday couscous, and it’s clearly a neighborhood hangout. Everyone that ate here was from the area! The owner and his wife were heavily engaged, and his Fassi wife oversees the kitchen. On Fridays, they offer couscous, while on other days, they provide specialties like R’fissa or B’stila! If we had ordered the day before, they could have made us camel couscous, but alas. Instead, our driver walked down the street and returned with some grilled camel skewers. Moroccan food is both tasty and genuine.

Talhamar

This is the restaurant at the oyster farm. Fresh or grilled oysters, as well as a variety of other shellfish, are available. The octopus tajine was our favorite meal since it was properly cooked and not chewy at all. What’s available fluctuates with the seasons – I just missed out on lobster. The raw oysters are just 4dh each, while the tajine is 40dh. The pricing is quite reasonable! However, there is one word of caution: there is no bathroom, so prepare appropriately!

One of the common myths about dining in this area is that they consume a lot of camel meat. As it turns out, they don’t. We couldn’t find a camel anywhere, no matter how hard we looked. Camels seem to be worth more alive than dead down here, where they are more northern.

Dakhla lodging options

When I originally started looking for places to stay in Dakhla, I discovered that very few accept online payments or are listed with booking aggregators. Prepayment through bank transfer was also requested in a few situations before the stay. When booking a reservation, keep this in mind.

Dakhla’s Attitude

This is one of the most popular kite surfing hotels in the region. While we considered staying, we knew we wouldn’t be kitesurfing, and this is a very lively area. There are two campsites, three different types of accommodation, and a variety of price levels, making it a realistic alternative to investigate. Your lodging is all-inclusive.

Prices for Dakhla Attitude Ocean Vagabonds

This hotel, which has sites in Essaouira and Dakhla, is ideal for getting away from it all. We first intended to book this hotel, but it needs a minimum 5-night stay, and we were only in town for four nights. On-site amenities include massage, yoga, kitesurfing, and plenty of space to relax. As an eco-lodge, the resort strives to be as ecologically friendly as possible.

Hotel Dakhla Club

This is the hotel we chose to stay at. It is a newer hotel that has been open for about a year. It has kite surfing as an option, but we didn’t attempt it. We had a fantastic experience here overall. The prices were affordable (all-inclusive), and the staff was kind and helpful. The food was also great, albeit by day four I was getting tired of eating the same/similar things and could have used more variety. Overall, a good choice!

FAQ about Dakhla:

Is it safe to go to Dakhla?

Dakhla was named the Spanish Sahara’s capital. I appreciate that this all looks a bit concerning, however, Dakhla is a very safe city with lovely beaches. Apart from kite surfers, the bulk of tourists is Moroccans.

Is it worthwhile to visit Dakhla?

Dakhla’s souk is smaller than Marrakech’s, yet it is still worth a visit. You’ll even come across items that you won’t find in other Moroccan towns.

Is Dakhla a Moroccan province?

Dakhla is a city in southern Morocco that was named after Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros. Under the current Moroccan administration, it is the capital of the Dakhla-Oued Ed-Dahab region and the province of Oued Ed-Dahab.

Is it possible to purchase alcohol in Dakhla?

There is just one shop where you may buy alcohol. It’s an unmarked door on the right side of Hotel Doumas, facing the street.

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