Guelmim: A Lesser Known but Appealing Destination

Situated in the southern Anti-Atlas Mountains near the edge of the Sahara, Guelmim is a small town that has the well deserved nickname of ‘Gateway to the Desert’. The name “Guelmim” is also sometimes spelt “Goulimine” and “Guelmin”. The town itself may seem somewhat obscure and far-flung but it has a few really interesting attractions worth seeing.

Guelmim in Morocco is the capital of the Guelmim-Es Semara region and so it serves quite an important role in this remote part of the country. Most visitors who make their way here find that the walled town is quite striking in appearance. The houses protected by the ancient walls that surround Guelmim are built from sun-dried red clay. The city is encircled by a number of wonderfully refreshing palm groves which provide the residents of the town with both shade and nourishment. Upon arriving you will find that, much like with other parts of Morocco, you get an immediate sense of history and purpose. In the case of Guelmim, both the history and the purpose of the town are linked. This small but industrious regional epicenter started life as a caravan center that served to link the people of Morocco with Timbuktu during the 19th century. It currently continues to serve as gateway to Mauritania. The people here are very relaxed and friendly and most visitors feel quite at ease in this little town. Even female travelers can let down their guard in Guelmim as they no doubt go off in exploration of the famous ‘Guelmim beads’ that hippies brought back from this town on their travels so many years ago. However it is interesting to note that these colorful beads are made in Venice and other parts of Europe even though they are readily available and commonly associated with Guelmim in Morocco.

However, the main attraction in Guelmim is its famous camel market since it is here that the biggest camel market in the country is held every Saturday at daybreak. This is the perfect place to not only see trade in action and a fine selection of camels, but also to learn more about the amazing ‘Blue Men of the Desert’, the Tuareg. These men get their names from the clothes they wear which transfer their pigment onto the owner giving their skin a bluish color. The color does this because it is pounded instead of boiled into the cloth to save water. The garments they wear are thus colored with indigo, which is a very scarce and expensive commodity, and darker blue hues on a man’s skin are generally considered to be an indication of great wealth. The Tuareg regularly come to Guelmim on market day to trade their camels, purchase supplies and have new robes made for them. Another treat is the Camel Festival held at Tan Tan Road every year in July where visitors can learn more about the ancient culture and many rituals that are enjoyed in this dusty part of the earth. So visit Guelmim and discover a little more about the fascinating people and culture of Morocco.