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Visiting the Gateway to the Sahara

Visiting the Gateway to the Sahara

Guelmim is located in the Guelmim-Es Semara region in southern Morocco and is the largest city in the region and its capital. Otherwise known as Guelmine, Goulimine, Guelmime and Glaimim, the city is considered the “gateway to the Sahara” and is the point where the N1 and N12 highways intersect and connect with the neighboring Sos-Massa-Draa region. The majority of Guelmim’s residents speak the Hassaniya Arabic dialect, originally spoken by the nomadic Beni Hassan tribe who ruled the region from the 15th to 17th centuries.

As well as the famous palm grove, visitors to Guelmim will find that it is very different from other Moroccan cities. As a relatively new city, it has developed its own style and most of the buildings are painted brick red with sand-colored edges around the windows and small ornaments. The buildings are two or three stories high and have small windows to protect them from the heat and sun. The large plaza is lined with buildings with arches and porches that provide shade. In the center of the square is a round fountain with water flowing from a series of round platforms, similar to plates.

Guelmim has a permanent market that caters to more locals than tourists, but is still a sight to behold. Guelmim is famous for its weekly camel market and hosts a camel festival once a year. Camels are bought and sold in markets, with good quality animals being traded for breeding purposes and others being slaughtered for food. Although cars and trucks have taken over the camel’s role as a means of transport, they are still valued as heavy animals and are one of the best ways to explore the desert that suits them. Their long, thick lashes and hairy ears provide protection from the sand, and they can walk for long periods of time with little water and food. If handled properly, they are gentle and cohesive animals, and visitors to Guelmim should consider an unforgettable ride on a camel’s back.

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