Guelmim is one of Morocco’s best-kept secrets. It is the gateway to the Sahara and has the largest camel market in the country, but it is still well off the beaten track.
It’s easy to get to – you can fly to Marrakech or Agadir and there is a regular and excellent bus service. And you'll experience a true slice of Saharan life in this desert city.
The people are Hassaniyya or Sahrawis and speak their own language but many speak English or French too. They are famous for their hospitality. You can feel the rhythms of the sands here, where people have time to live and laugh.
Here are the top five things to go in Guelmim, Morocco - the gateaway to the Sahara...
This is held every Saturday and starts at dawn when the nomads and shepherds come in with their livestock. Going in through the lower arch, you will be met by the sound of hard bargains being struck as merchants get the best prices for their animals.
Camels cluster on the far side of the market with sheep and goats near the gate. You step back in time when you step through the gate, and as long as you ask permission, the blue-robed, black-turbaned men of the desert are usually happy for you to take photos.
Then, walk back out and up the slight hill to the main market where you can buy a colourful kaftan for as little as £5 and feast your senses on mounds of locally-grown fruit and vegetables.
The courgettes are so fresh that they still have their yellow flowers, and if you are lucky enough to go in water melon season, they are an explosion of freshness on your tongue. A good buy to take home is also the honey which is not cheap but is completely organic and harvested from the wild. It’s best to visit in the morning.
The Sahrawis are enormously proud of their tea and there is a whole ceremony involved in the making and drinking of it which is totally unique.
They use black gunpowder tea, but it has to be made on charcoal or wood rather than gas to give it a smoky taste. They then add enormous amounts of sugar to combat the bitterness of the tea and pour it into tiny glasses.
It is poured in and out of the glasses at least half a dozen times so that you get the right amount of foam on top and a little bit is always spilt on the tray as an offering.
Before you sip, say “Bismillah” (in the name of God) and then enjoy the strong sweetness. It is extremely refreshing and one small glass is better than half a litre of water for quenching your thirst.
Custom dictates that you drink three glasses, which gives you enough time to really get to know your hosts. Don’t plan on going anywhere in a hurry.