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.
Traveling from Marrakech by CTM bus takes 10 hours and cost about 190 DHS. M’Hamid is listed by the CTM as “Lamhamid Ghozlane”. M’Hamid 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.
There is an asphalt road 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 80 dirhams; from Marrakech it is 160 dirhams. CTM leaves from Marrakech around 11:15 and from Ouarzazate at 16:00 and arrives M’hamid around 21:45 (as of Mar 2017) . The CTM Company cals M’Hamid “Lamhamid Ghozlane” for some reason. 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 2 km 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, 4×4, 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.