Around 160 million years ago, the Atlantic Ocean opened up and separated North Africa from North America. At this time, in the heart of what today is the M’Goun Geopark in Morocco’s Central High Atlas Mountains, there lived a large herbivorous sauropod. In 1979, the Swiss geologist Michel Monbaron from the University of Fribourg discovered the complete skeleton in the Atlas Mountains, near to where the museum stands today. It all started as a task commissioned by Morocco’s Geological Office: as a geologist, Monbaron was hired to map a portion of the Atlas Mountains. The collaboration between Switzerland and Morocco in this field is actually a tradition. Since the mid-20th century, Swiss citizens have been traveling to Rabat to work as geologists in the North African kingdom.
The landscapes of the Central High Atlas Mountains are a highly valuable heritage. Their beauty, diversity, and geological and geomorphological importance justify the status of M’Goun Geopark as the first global UNESCO Geopark in Africa and the Arab world.
As part of the programme to develop sustainable tourism in Switzerland and Morocco, Mr. and Mrs. Monbaron recently also trained tour guides.
The region of M'Goun Geopark is rich in locations that could be valuable income generators in sustainable tourism. Tour guides are at the very forefront when we speak of imparting information visually, and they play a key role in sensitising visitors to the natural riches of this region.
In a first step, six exchange and continuing education workshops were organised to enhance tour guides’ skills. The places visited during the workshop are emblematic of the diversity of landscapes of the Central High Atlas in terms of geology, geomorphology, and palaeontology, as well as in their relationship to human activities. Participants were given the opportunity to learn about these areas, in order to eventually contribute to the development of sustainable tourism supporting the regional heritage.
As a partner of the M'Goun Geopark, Swisscontact has played a key role in training tourist guides and helping to raise awareness and develop sustainable tourism in the M'Goun Geopark region. The Switzerland-Morocco Sustainable Tourism Programme is implemented by Swisscontact.