The first travel guide for the Moroccan Sahara, drawn up by a Spaniard, was published and presented at the international tourism fair in Madrid, Fitur 2022. Gonzalo Sánchez immersed himself in local Sahrawi life to write it and make people discover the treasures hidden in this region of southern Morocco. By discovering these regions, the writer realized the tangibility and veracity of the Moroccanness of the Sahara.
While Spain was the former colonial power in the Moroccan Sahara, today very few Spaniards know about the region and its tourist potential.
Falling in love with Morocco and the Sahara more precisely 20 years ago, Gonzalo Sánchez, photographer and designer by profession, wanted to introduce the regions of southern Morocco to the Spaniards and show them all the hidden potential of these ancestral lands, steeped in history and “impressive” archaeological riches.
In his book entitled “Cultural tourism in southern Morocco. From Sidi Ifni to Lagouira”, the author recounts all the unknown riches of the southern regions by illustrating them with photos taken during his journey to discover the Moroccan Sahara.
“Tourism is a very little exploited sector in the Moroccan Sahara, for various reasons,” said the Spaniard, the author of the tourist guide in an interview with Altayar. And to add that in Spain, this sector is “very unknown”, hence his idea of making the region better known, of favoring the indigenous population, through a travel guide.
The author’s first encounter with the Moroccan Sahara was in 2006 when he went there as a volunteer in the company of a professor from the University of Murcia, and then in 2013 when he was touched and impressed by “the incredible tourist potential of the region” which brings together cities like Sidi Ifni, Laâyoune, Dakhla, Smara…
“Spanish tourism in the Sahara is traditionally limited to two sources. The Dakhla region with sports tourism, for kitesurfing. The beaches and the wind have nothing to envy to Tarifa. And the region of Laâyoune, where those who were born there in the colonial era, or even their children, return to visit the place with which they are linked in one way or another. It’s very limited tourism, and that’s what’s happening right now, mostly.”
Sanchez believes that since there is an attraction for the region, knowledge of the latter must develop, hence his guide intended for Spaniards wishing to discover the region which harbors potential, particularly in the context of cultural tourism.
“They have impressive archaeological riches. But totally unknown, because the political circumstances of the region have prevented archaeological studies in the Sahara. Especially in Smara, Laayoune and Guelmin,” he said.
And to add that since 2019, Morocco has been striving to preserve and protect through the plan of the National Heritage Directorate everything related to rock art, painting, petroglyphs, pre-Islamic burial mounds or places historical “which certify and verify the reality of the Moroccan Sahara and its origins”, said Gonzalo Sánchez who has taken up residence in Tarfaya to immerse himself in local life and write his book.