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 an ATM in MHamid.
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.
Camel trips and 4x4
Camel trips and 4x4 are provided by many outlets in the village.
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.
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.