M'Hamid is a small village in Zagora region of Morocco, 98 km after Zagora, one of the two places in Morocco where Sahara begins (another is Merzouga). M'Hamid gets fewer visitors than Merzouga and is arguably more "authentic." It is about 7-8 hours by car from Marrakech and 5 hours from Ourzazate. It is "The end of the road" (the last point of The route national N°9), after it is only sands of Sahara, shepherds and caravan trails.
M'Hamid is next to the last major oasis one encounters on the way south into the greater Sahara. The area was historically important as the site (Sidi Khalil) where trade caravans gathered (some as large as 5,000 camels) before setting off to Timbuktu and other destinations. Little of its interesting history is to be found on websites or in tourist guide books, but knowledgeable locals share the facts and stories with pride and a touch of melancholy.
M'Hamid is also known as Bounou, once a thriving village made out of a mix of local Ait Atta berbers, Local drawa, and local Hassani tribes. The villages of Oulad Youssef, Oulad Mhaya and Ezouaya, amongst others, are scattered throughout the oasis. Local people get around on foot but small motorbikes are very popular too. Donkey carts are in widespread use for transporting goods.
The environment is harsh and fragile. You are urged to appreciate how scarce water is in the town. In the past taps went dry by early afternoon on many days. Despite this and to the severe frustration of locals, a number of the hotels have swimming pools. Choose wisely where you invest your money... it seems more sensible to head to the Moroccan coast if you are keen for a swim, desert temperatures notwithstanding.
Around 2005, an asphalt road came to M'Hamid so you can reach the village from Ouarzazate by virtually any car. The trip from Ouarzazate is memorable, passing through small villages, the regional center of Zagora, and over a pass into the open desert.
You can take a CTM bus from Casablanca, Marrakech, or any city along the N9 road (Ouarzazate, Zagora, Tagounite). From Ouarzazate the trip is something like DH80; from Marrakech it is DH110 (as of 3/2011). CTM leaves from Marrakech around 12:30 and from Ouarzazate at 16:15 and reaches M'hamid anywhere between 21:00-11PM (as of 3/2011). Other bus companies exist, like SupraTours, Voyages Farah, et al.
M'Hamid is a small town that is easily explored by foot.
There is a mosque in town, but as with the rest of Morocco, is not open to non-muslims. A Kasbah is located about 2Km away on the road out of town (take a left at the mosque). The kasbah is inhabited by black Africans who came from Mali many years ago.
Other than this, the main attraction are the Erg Chigaga dunes which are about 60 km from the town. Overnight trips can be arrainged by many outfitters in M'Hamid.
The main thing people come to M'Hamid for is trips to desert.
Getting out is basically what one does in M'Hamid. Camping in the desert, trekking and expeditions to the high dunes are very popular. You can do them overnight or for several days, by camel, 4x4, motor bike or quad bike.
If you plan to take two activities in desert, consider starting with a less intensive experience and proceeding to a more adventurous.
Camel trips and 4x4
Camel trips and 4x4 are provided by many outlets in the village.
Sahara Best Travel Tour company run by a local family, who can provide the authentic nomadic touch you are looking for. Camel trekking, 4x4 excursions, bivouac tenting, bike tours, and first-class accommodation are all offered. Check out our website http:www.saharabesttravel.com for our desert tours and other packages.
Caravane de reve, M'Hamid Centre (oposite of the mosque,), ☎ +212 670020033, . A family-run, friendly, experienced and licensed desert travel business providing work for local people. Offers different types of desert tours, like 4x4 excursions, walking tours, camel treks, bivouac camps and sandboarding - short and long duration. Apart from trips and stays in the local area and to erg Chegaga also bigger Morocco tours are on the board, all according to the budget and the clients requirements. Spoken languages are Arabic, English, French and Spanish. Cuisine and the experience of home visits for food & tea time are included.
Quad bikes and buggies
Quad Evasion, (5 km before M'Hamid), , +212 661 775478 or +212 544 848692. Seemingly the only provider for quad bikes and buggy rental--but is doing that professionally. Quad bikes are one-driver-a-time, while buggies are two-persons-at-once. Serves both 1 or 2 hr trips and multiple-day advanced tours.
Most tourist companies working in town offer tent rental for your own trip to desert.
No rental available in the town, still every week several groups of enthusiasts come to ride bikes in a desert.
Markets on Mondays: vegetables and fruits brought from other regions by camels.
Besides that, nothing special--typical tourist shops selling mediocre carpets and usual stuff.
There are no bars in M'Hamid. It is a very conservative town that strictly observes local laws banning alcohol.
Ensure that you carry sufficient supplies of water if venturing into the desert.
There are numerous begging children in the village, presumably thanks to many tourists arriving directly from the airport to M'Hamid to spend large sums on 4x4 treks.