Guelmim, the Gateway to the Sahara
Located on the wadi Noun, 130 km north of Tan-Tan and 56 km south of Sidi Ifni, Guelmim, which was once an essential stop on the caravan route to Timbuktu, sees the Anti-Atlas gradually tilting.
Built in a place where the north conjugates with the south, hassanya, the Sahrawi language begins to be widely spoken.
A Sahara that invites itself
To the south of the city, the Jbel Taïssa shelters some tracks leading to oases sometimes tiny, buried within small dry mounts. Then ghostly, the wadi Draa flows painfully towards the ocean.
Past its banks, the aridity of the regs and the scarcity of water points predominate, finally prefiguring the arrival of a Sahara which gradually fills the space.
Water: a source of economy
Place of passage required, the creation of Guelmim in the Middle Ages in the valley of Noun is related to the caravan trade. Guelmim was formerly called “Aguelmim” which means: surrounded by water; this precious liquid being preponderant, its presence supported the major role that the city lost with the gradual and definitive stop of this trade.
If the economy of the city revives since the creation of the Saharan Provinces and the development of tourism, it is especially the oasis agriculture of the near surroundings which now takes an important place.
Guelmim Tourism Development
The old Guelmim, secular, is always present, immutable, always encouraging to stroll in its narrow streets, lined with mud houses while its city center is made up of airy avenues furnished with buildings with the dominant pink color.
The recent influx of tourists has enabled the city to acquire hotel accommodation and all the services necessary for travellers. The potential of this area and its surroundings has allowed the creation of varied tourist circuits, sporting, adventurous, green, respectful of the local culture and traditions.
On the opposite bank of the Noun, ten kilometres from Guelmim, the village of Abeinou offers its thermal springs equipped with pools whose naturally warm water is at 39°.
Guelmim Camel Souk
1 km on the Tan Tan road
At the crossroads of caravan routes, Guelmim is home to Morocco’s largest camel souk. This Saturday souk, also called Amhayrich souk, reached its peak in the 19th century. Mainly dedicated to camels, and we see during the moussem of Sidi El Ghazi in July one of the largest concentrations of camelids in North Africa.
Camels, handicrafts and basic necessities took the southern route then doing the business of the Tekna. This tribe of craftsmen and nomadic breeders of Berber Chleuh origin from the Guelmim region, whose ancestral trade is certainly no stranger to the birth of this great souk.
An archaeological past
The surroundings of Guelmim are rich with an important archaeological past. 270 sites have been listed. Many of them have rock engravings…
Among these, the village of Asrir at the entrance to the oasis of Tighmert, supposed to house the remains of ancient Noul Lamta, holds the attention of Spanish-Moroccan archaeologists.
This medieval city was built after the Arab conquest led by Sidi Okba Ben Nafi at the end of the 7th century. Moreover it would have been according to the writings, endowed with a monetary workshop at a time when it traded with the Phoenicians and the Carthaginians, making this research very attractive.
Guelmim also presents a local craft industry through its leather goods which mainly uses goat skins to make poufs, bags or even snuff boxes… The traditional Berber jewellery and carpet weaving are not left out. These are characterised by the simplicity of the patterns and the few colours used.
It seems obvious to us that everyone travelling through this region of north-south transition, must take advantage of the many assets that this city offers on the road to the great Moroccan south. Perhaps to discover the “Guedra”, this traditional dance that has been practiced since ancient times in the Noun region. It is described as “an art of romance and Sufism”.
Discover the Tighmert Oasis
The oasis is about 15 kilometres east of Guelmim.
Still rich of several tens of families who continue to maintain there bitterly plots where market gardening predominates, irrigated by small channels generously supplied by the rather numerous sources.
Aït Bekou, the main village, delivers its shaded alleys, surrounded by earth walls pierced with heavy wooden doors.
About ten kilometres long, it extends to the old abandoned village of Fask, near which the water, at first like a net, flows between the ochre of terraced rocks, forming successive small pools.
In the heart of this oasis a vast kasbah has been transformed into a Berber museum. In the fifteen or so rooms that make up this venerable residence, the owner’s guide shows a whole collection of traditional objects and tools of the caravan material, particularly “gerba”, large bottles that were used to transport the water of the caravans.
Maroc que j’aime : Guelmim