Guelmim, Gateway to the Sahara

We stayed in numerous cities in Morocco, and I’d have to say that Guelmim was probably my favorite place. Essaouira was a close second, but mostly because they have a great beach, and I’m quite partial to beaches.

While other areas of Morocco are amazing and definitely unique experiences, I loved Guelmim the most because it was extremely authentic. It isn’t made for tourists, and it hasn’t really bought into all of its touristic possibilities. It’s just everyday Morocco.

camels, guelmim, morocco, souk

It was here that I fell in love with Morocco and its people, where I had my first taste of camel, and where I also learned about the different colors of camels and their purposes. White camels are considered holy, and every group of camels will always have at least one white camel in it because they can apparently smell water from over 30 km away.  Brown camels are used for work, and the “black” ones (dark brown) are used for their meat.

Guelmim is the last good-sized town before you enter the Sahara desert, so it’s a good place for starting Sahara treks. Because they haven’t bought the tourism bullet, there really isn’t a lot to do here, though. You don’t come to Guelmim to be mesmerized by snake charmers, for its fabulous shopping, and definitely not for the cuisine.

You come to Guelmim to see what real rural Moroccan life is like, to slow down, and to absorb it all.

Getting to Guelmim is fairly straight forward. Buses and petit taxis leave regularly from Agadir, although if you go to the suburb town of Inezgane you’ll find transportation that runs more frequently. There are plenty of companies, but I had the best experience with Supratours (which leaves from the main bus terminal in Agadir). It’s about a 4-hour journey, which includes a 30-minute rest stop for food and bathroom use. Yep, no bathrooms on the bus.

There are several hotels in Guelmim, and they are all pretty much similar in services, quality, etc. We didn’t stay in any of the super low-budget ones, so I can’t really comment about any of those.

perspective of travel, guelmim, morocco travel tips

To get around the town you can flag down any red petit taxi or the white and blue pick-up truck taxis. They all charge 6 MAD to go anywhere in town. However, on Saturday is the camel souk, and the price will double for you to go there, which brings the price to less than $1.50 USD so. . .

If you want to check out the oasis, you’ll need to take either the grand taxi (5 MAD) that leaves from the Ali Baba souk, or catch a shared taxi (7 MAD). If you want to take the latter, just ask a taxi driver to take you to the petit taxi for Tighmert (usually pronounced teeg-mart). The red taxis and pickups can’t take you to the oasis..

For the return trip, just stand on the side of the road and flag down any grand or petit taxi that comes by. Some personal vehicles will also stop and offer you a ride for free. It may sound a bit scary, but it’s pretty safe.

The camel souk is kind of interesting. Some of the camel sellers come from near Mauritania to sell here. Often you’ll find an English speaker who will give you lots of information and insights on the culture, as well as try to sell you souvenirs and jewelry. He isn’t a major hard sell, though. I think the whole livestock area was the most interesting part of the souk. The rest of it was really just a bigger version of the in-town souk.

morocco, guelmim, souk

If you aren’t feeling too adventurous with restaurants, check out Cafe Plage Blanche next to the 1st gas station in town. They have a huge sign, so it’s hard to miss. They have pretty decent food and a bit more variety than most of the food places in town.

There are tons of ATMs all over town.

For groceries, I would recommend the supermarket next to the bank across from the other gas station in town. Just look for the symbol of a big shopping cart. There is another one across the street by the post office (Supermarché Rajan), but this one has better quality and a bit more selection.

You won’t find produce in the supermarkets, though. You’ll find that from either a street vendor or in the nearby souk. If you’re taking a taxi on a Saturday and don’t want the big souk, just tell them the Ali Baba souk. That’s the smaller, everyday one.

You won’t find many English speakers in Guelmim. A few more speak Spanish. Most people will speak French, although you’ll run into some who only speak Moroccan Arabic and Berber. Still, it’s pretty easy to function, get around, and to purchase things. At the hotels, they’ll all speak French, and a few will speak a little English.

By the post office are the restaurants that mostly serve fish. If you head away from the town entrance, past the roundabout, you’ll find the restaurants serving roasted chicken.

Guelmim is really a place you visit purely for the authentic cultural experience, so don’t expect a lot in the way of entertainment and tourist sights. Guelmim isn’t trying to impress anyone. Which is what I loved about it.

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  1. Where I am and Why: January 2012: El Médano, Tenerife, Canary Islands | Islandmomma - [...]  3-month sojourn in Morocco, that he was looking forward to getting some variety back in his life. His stay …

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