advertisement

Getting There

The road all the way to M'hamid is good, although it's always worth budgeting extra travel time for any mishaps and carrying more water than normal. There are daily buses and grands taxis connecting Ouarzazate, Zagora, and M'hamid, but, if possible, driving yourself from Ouarzazate is easily the best option, allowing for visits to as many oases and villages as takes your fancy.

By Bus -- Buses service Zagora reasonably well, with daily departures from Casablanca (12 hr.; 220dh), Erfoud (9 hr.; 100dh), Er Rachidia (10 hr.; 130dh), Marrakech (10 hr.; 100dh-120dh), and Ouarzazate (4 1/2 hr.; 55dh). CTM is located at the south end of the main road, boulevard Mohammed V. They only have one departure per day, at 7pm to Marrakech and beyond to Casablanca. All other services operate from a new gare routière at the north entrance to town. There is a daily bus from Zagora to M'hamid (2 hr.; 25dh). All buses operate from the dusty junction in M'hamid where the tarred road ends.

By Grand Taxi -- Grands taxis operate throughout the day (when full) to Zagora from Ouarzazate (3 hr.; 70dh) and M'hamid (1 1/2 hr.; 35dh). In Zagora they still operate from the old gare routière in the middle of town, a frustrating 15-minute walk from the new bus station. In M'hamid they stop at the same junction as the buses .

By Organized Tour -- Ali Yassine's very professional, family-run Caravane du Sud (tel. 0524/847569; fax 0524/847497; www.caravanedusud.com) is located at the main junction as you enter Amezrou after crossing the Oued Dra. His English-speaking staff can arrange 2-hour camel treks to the small dunes at nearby Nakhla and various other excursions of up to 3 weeks. Ahmed Hajja's Zbar Travel (tel. 0668/517280; tel./fax 0524/848184; www.zbartravel.com) can be found next door to the Hotel Elghzlane at the entrance to M'hamid (he also has an office in Ouarzazate). Ahmed's ancestry goes all the way back to the first Bedouin Arabs who migrated here from Yemen, and he intimately knows the dunes around M'hamid. A 2-hour camel trek to the Erg Lehoudi and Erg Messouira dunes, with an overnight stay in Berber tents, costs 350dh per person including transportation by camel, dinner, and breakfast. An overnight stay in Berber tents at Erg Chigaga costs 200dh per person with meals; to get there costs 1,300dh for a six-seater 4WD, or 370dh per day per camel.

Fast Facts

All services offered in Zagora are located on the main road from Ouarzazate, boulevard Mohammed V, along a 1km (2/3-mile) stretch between the north entrance arches and the south junction to Foum Zguid or Amezrou.

Banque Populaire (tel. 0524/859372) is located in the middle of boulevard Mohammed V and has a 24-hour exchange ATM, while BMCE (tel. 0524/879649), at the northern end, and Credit Agricolé (tel. 0524/860042), next to Banque Populaire, both have ATMs and bureaux de change open Monday to Friday 8:15am to 3:45pm.

The post office is located at the south end of boulevard Mohammed V and is open Monday to Friday 8am to 4:15pm and Saturday 8 to 11:45am.

Pharmacie Zagora, opposite Cyber Draa (tel. 0524/847195), and Pharmacie Assafare, near the BMCE bank (tel. 0524/895390), are open Monday to Saturday 7:30am to 1pm, 3 to 8pm, and 9:30pm to 1am. The all-night Pharmacie du Nuit is opposite Banque Populaire.

Cyber Cafe Albahas is just off the north end of boulevard Mohammed V. Cyber Draa is close to Banque Populaire, and Cyber Agharas is next door to CTM. All of them are open daily from 9am to noon and 3 to 10pm.

Labo Photo Zagora, opposite the grand taxi station, sells and processes film and has a very limited stock of memory cards and other digital accessories.

At the entrance to M'hamid is a very small cluster of hotel-restaurants, a couple of shops, an Internet cafe, and a disproportionate number of tour operators. Stopping here can be quite intense upon arrival as hordes of "blue men" gather around to offer you trips into the desert.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.