Established by the Spanish in 1844 and formerly called Villa Cisneros, Dakhla lies just north of the Tropic of Cancer on a sandy peninsula stretching 40km from the main coastline. It’s a very lonely 500km drive from Laayoune (more than 1000km from Agadir) through endless desert, and Dakhla is actually closer to Nouâdhibou (Mauritania) than any Moroccan city.
And yet Dakhla feels less remote than many southern towns, with good hotels, restaurants and an emerging tourism scene driven by kitesurfing.
Although Western Saharan tensions do still linger under the carefree, sea-breeze surface, Dakhla is relatively progressive. Investment by the Moroccan government and developers continues, and the population continues to grow with new arrivals from the north. New apartment blocks stretch the town boundaries, the presence of the Moroccan navy and army is tangible, and Dakhla's port is home to Morocco’s largest fishing fleet.