The ghost town loved by dark tourists a short drive from beautiful European city | World | News

The ghost town loved by dark tourists a short drive from beautiful European city | World | News

Madrid is famed for its legendary nightlife, historic architecture and thriving art scene, but a few miles west lies the city’s complete opposite.

El Alamin might be a 90 minute drive from Madrid but it is a world away from the Spanish capital, which is home to more than three million people.

Meaning “the world” in Arabic, the abandoned village was the brainchild of the fourth Marquis de Comillas, Juan Claudio Güell y Churruca, who fought in the Spanish Civil War on the side of Francisco Franco.

Built to house cotton and tobacco workers in the 1950s, the settlement is made up of just three streets, with a church still standing among the Communist-style dwellings which housed El Alamin’s 150 original inhabitants.

The locals didn’t have to pay to live there, but they did have to cover their electricity bills. Forty houses, a bar and post office were considered everything the labourers needed, besides the church.

But the farmland was exploited “to the point of exhaustion” and started to deteriorate, leaving the village unable to sustain itself, according to the travel blog Madrid No Frills.

Over the years, those who lived there gradually left and by 2000, the village had been abandoned.

The site has since gained a reputation as a “ghost town” which once drew dark tourists, but from 2021 visitors have required permission from the owners to walk the village’s eerie streets.

Tamar Shemesh, writing in Madrid No Frills, said despite El Alamín’s “short 44 years of existence” the stories and legends about it are extensive.

She recounted how on December 18, 1957, the sister of the Marquis married at El Alamin’s church, with the “wealthiest and most prestigious” families in Spain attending.

Ms Shemesh added that in recent years the legends swirling around the village are full of “darker mysteries”.

One such legend seeks to explain the “real” reason the village was abandoned with tales of a shepherd who led his flock to a nearby mountain.

By the next morning, the sheep and the shepherd were dead, spreading panic in El Alamin and causing the locals to flee.

Dr Philip Stone, Executive Director at the Institute for Dark Tourism Research at the University of Central Lancashire, told sites such as El Alamin can make some yearn for the past.

He said: “These ghost towns give us a sense of the people coming before us, but also of our own fast-moving world. When we see places that have literally stopped, it can bring a sense of nostalgia.”

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Author: Shirley