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.
ATM: There is no ATM in MHamid. It is imperative that you plan for this, by stopping at Zagora or Tagounite (at Poste Maroc, next to the school - the last ATM on the route) and withdraw adequate currency. Goes without saying that everything is to be paid for in cash in the town.
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 DH160 (as of 3/2014). CTM leaves from Marrakech around 11:30 and from Ouarzazate at 16:15 and reaches M'hamid anywhere between 21:00-11PM (as of 3/2014). Other bus companies exist, like SupraTours, Voyages Farah, et al.
To get out of MHamid there is a 6AM CTM bus to Marrakech, stopping at Zagora, Ouarzazate and other towns and villages along the route. Especially outside high tourist season this may be the most reliable way to get out of MHamid, as there can be no shared taxis making an appearance in the town for up to a day (late-June 2017 experience).
M'Hamid is a small town that is easily explored by foot.
Walk to Kasbah and Oulad Youssef village through the palms
Across the bridge over the river Draa (which is often dry these days as a result of the barrage at Ouarzazate), take the right and follow the road around the curve. You will pass the Auberge de Palmerai on your left. Past this you are heading towards the Kasbah which is still inhabited by families, and towards Oulad Youssef village. This is a lovely area to explore by foot as it is covered with palm trees and the terrain is quite gentle. There is a paved road to make sure you don't get lost, and also the village(s) ensures that there is a relatively dense population around, who are very friendly and will help you find your way back to the road. Or a passing motorbike may give you a lift back to MHamid centre.
You can spend 2-3 hours wandering in this immediate oasis vicinity of MHamid, getting a good feel for the vegetation, the home- and farm-steads, and the people.
Camel ride to nearby dunes
For 400 DH (06/2017) a camel ride can be arranged to dunes nearby. Note that these dunes may not be as 'fairytale' as Erg Chigaga, but if you are not interested/do not have the budget to hire a 4x4, this is a good option to get a feel for riding a camel and for the sand dunes. This is best arranged through the lodging you are staying at - via a phone call placed to the camel mahout.
There is a mosque in town, but as with the rest of Morocco, is not open to non-muslims.
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.
- Camp Jamal Historic Fortress, [email protected] (Take a left in the roundabout keeping the mosque on your left side, ahead you will find a riverbed, cross it and turn left, after about 5 km along the road you will find Camp Jamal on your left side, in the village named Oulad Mahaja), ☎ +212 626 472142. Experience the charm of the Saharan desert going with camels either to the highest dunes in Moroccan Sahara called Erg Sahara(approx 300 meters) or you can go on another adventure into the desert. All from one day trips to month long stays is possible.(price goes down with longer tours). It is also possible to go on tour to an old Kasbah near to the oasis with a donkey-driven cart. 350dh/day Trips by 4x4 from Mhamid to the oasis to Erg Chigaga is also possible. Price is 200 euros for a car, can be split between six persons. If you wish to spend a night in the desert living the simple traditional life of nomadic people with music, fire and celebrations. Camp Jamal can also teach you more about the local history, culture and life. Arabic/Berber lessons is also available. 350-450 dh / day. edit
Camel trips and 4x4
Camel trips and 4x4 are provided by many outlets in the village.
- Sahara Nighits, ☎ 00212674975252, . Local tours agency founded by nomad family in Mhamid and offers camel trekking, 4x4 excursions, and bivouac tenting. edit
- Sahara Services, ☎ +212 661 77 67 66, . A customer-end intermediary for desert trips (both camel and 4x4) that is well connected with most of the local providers (and individual guides/car-owners?), but also seem to receive a huge part of price you pay. Don't confuse with many outlets in MHamid that also have a Sahara Services sign. edit
- Marrakech Desert, ☎ +212 606 88 72 04, . Marrakech Desert is an entity of Authentic Sahara Tours, specialized in offering days trips starting from Marrakech. The team is committed to operating outstanding day trips, desert trips and tours with high quality and reasonable prices. They offer a unique and professional service giving you the opportunity to experience the best of Morocco. The excursions are always about meeting and exchanging with the people, life, and culture of the Berbers who live in several villages you’ll have the chance to visit with us. edit
- Sahara Best Travel, . First-class tour company operated by a local family in Mhamid and offers camel trekking, 4x4 excursions, and bivouac tenting. edit
- ZbarTravel, M'Hamid Centre (next to Hotel El Ghizlane), ☎ +212 668 517280, . A friendly and family-run desert travel business providing work for local people. Offers many different types of desert tours according to budget and client requirements/capabilities from 4x4 excursions, walking tours, camel treks, bivouac camps and sandboarding - short and long duration. Excellent knowledge of local area and with office in Ouarzazate for arranging other Moroccan itineraries. edit
- Marhba au Sahara, . A small family company offering tours and excursions both by 4x4 and camel through Southern Morocco and the desert. The prices include all meals, overnight stays, guide, transport and all visits. edit
- M'hamid Voyages, Centre M'Hamid Elghizlane 47402 , BP : 7 - Zagora, ☎ +212 662 781072, . Two very friendly guides offering camel treks and 4x4 tours. edit
- Naims Terrific Travel Services, ☎ +212 666 052002. A small but friendly travel service who can arrange guided, personalised tours of the whole of Morocco but specialise in the Saharan region. Small group tours staying and eating in local private houses a possibility. edit
- Caravane Targala (Caravane Terguala), ☎ +212 667 843136. +212 662 781085. One of operators that provides the trips for Chiri Biri and Sahara Services intermediaries. Operates 2-5, and 7 day tours. edit
- Sahara Spirit, ☎ +212 672 48 16 60, . Driss is a very experienced licensed Moroccan guide with a great sense of humour from M'Hamid with an agency in Ouarzazate. Tailor-made trips for one or several days, trekking with camels or stays in bivouacs. Combination of trips to desert with other sights on the road to the desert, including exquisite cuisine and possibility to experience home visits for food & tea time. edit
- Mhamidtravel, ☎ +212 668 167918 ([email protected]). Biovacing in the ancient sand dunes of Chgaga, camel trip to the back desert of Hmada and Dravali. Experienced Tuareg guide, Mohammed Sbai. edit
- Travel Exploration, . Leading Sahara Desert Morocco Travel Agency operated by an Ait Atta Berber who is an expert on the South from the Draa Valley and an American Travel Agent. Travel Exploration offers Sahara Desert off road experiences in M'hamid, camel trekking, 4x4 excursions, and comfort / luxury bivouac tent camps. edit
- Desert Candles, ☎ +212 673 267 893, . A professional tour company and owner of a desert camp in Erg Chegaga dunes. The company has a friendly team from the local area which includes drivers and guides as well as chefs and caretakers in the camp. Offers various desert trips such as 4x4 excursions, camel treks, accomodation in desert camps with sanboarding. Individuals, small and big groups are welcome for short and long stays and excellent meals are included in price. Guides speak English, French, Spanish and Arabic. See webiste for more information edit
- Desertbrise Travel, ☎ +212 600 454 881, . A professional tour company Offers various desert trips such as 4x4 excursions, camel treks, accomodation in desert camps with sanboarding. Individuals, small and big groups are welcome for short and long stays and excellent meals are included in price. Guides speak English, French, Spanish and Arabic. See webiste for more information edit
Quad bikes and buggies
Quad Evasion, (5 km before M'Hamid), , +212 66 17 75 478. 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.
Outside high-tourist season: It is fairly difficult to find places that will serve any food, but usually the staff at your lodging can arrange food at fairly short notice (usually by asking his wife or mother to cook homemade food).
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.
- Kasbah Sahara Service, (located 300m before M'Hamid), ☎ +212 661 776766 ([email protected], fax: +212 524 457669), . Kasbah Sahara Services is a traditional Berber house situated at the foot of Mhamid village in southern Morocco. It is a family run guesthouse and restaurant. It is an excellent haven for a warm welcome and a true Moroccan experience. Kasbah Sahara Services is located 300 m from the town of Mhamid. It is quite easy to find on the road direct at the entrance of the village on the right hand. The magnificent scenery and Berber architecture with zellige on the ground, tadellaket in the wall, an arrangement reconciling refinement, elegance and sobriety are a wonderful introduction to this guesthouse. 19€. edit
- Dar Azawad, (located 5 km before M'Hamid), ☎ +212 524 848730, . Rooms are stylish imitations of berber tents and small kasbahs. Highly rated hotel, very popular with overseas guests and one of the best in Mhamid. Very helpful staff and a full range of activities for those wishing to explore the desert. edit
- Dar Sidi Bounou, Bounou, M’Hamid (5 km before M'Hamid), ☎ +212 524 848730, . A traditional daub house located in a palmerie garden. Renovated recently by a Canadian artist Nancy and her Berber husband. A small traditional daub house has been enlarged and improved with modern facilities and using, as far as possible the beldi (country) style materials such as daub, palm and cassia wood. It is both functional and comfortable whilst still retaining a stylish yet rustic theme. 3 double and a single bedrooms are in the house, they have terrace and ensuite bathrooms with hot water and European style toilets. There are also Nwalla huts and traditional black Berber tents with garden terraces, or you can sleep on the upper roof. Breakfast, lunch and dinner is available with some ingredients from their garden. Treks to the desert in overnight trips both by camel and 4x4 arranged. €30-50. edit
- Hotel Elgizlane B&B, (in the centre of town), ☎ +212 668 517280, . Local staff have some English language skills. Rooms are simple and good. Good for travellers setting off on a desert trip. Coffee, tea and local food. €12. edit
- Hotel Sahara. Run by the freindly Naamani brothers, Habib and Hassan. It is basic but after a week on a camel even hot water is luxurious and they have internet. (29.828658,-5.723405) edit
- Hotel Kasbah Azalay (Azalay), ☎ +212 524 848096, . edit
- Dar Mhamid, in the centre of town (From the bus station walk 150m heading West), ☎ +212 (0)6 52118078, . Dar Mhamid is a traditional Saharan guesthouse where you'll find a choice of private rooms with bathrooms and A/C, a 3 single beds shared room, a tea room, patio, terrace, garden, tea salon and a Moroccan restaurant. Your host, Omar, is welcoming and can arrange everything for you. He settled in Mhamid with his family because of the drought and then found his guesthouse. The guesthouse design according to traditional Moroccan/Berber architecture and arts. It is absolutely beautiful. 18-39€. edit
- Camp Adounia, in the Erg Biertam Dunes of M'hamid Sahara (Driver Needed, Call Emma or Samir for directions), ☎ +212 (0)661215062, . Camp Adounia is an ecological Desert camp in M'hamid, Erg Biertam Dunes. This comfortable, clean and classy camp, is authentic, yet comfortable, in a unique citadel of Sacred Sand Dunes called Erg Biertam. The Camp has a friendly Atmosphere, your host Samir is friendly and speaks great english, the chef Mohammed can cook amazing meals in his humble desert kitchen (Special diets welcome). Available for large groups, Sahara Birthdays, Desert Weddings and Festivals. 120€. edit
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.