I grew up in a small sub-Saharan village in the Draa Valley. I come from a large family – we are seven brothers. At an early age I needed to look for a job to support my family. I had a passion for the desert and its people so I started working in the dunes of Chegaga, guiding people there on camels and later in 4x4WDs.
After gaining experience, I moved to Marrakech where I worked as a guide/driver. First, I was travelling mainly to the desert and southern Morocco, which I knew so well, but then I started to travel to the cities as well as the north, getting to know Morocco very well.
What does a typical day look like for you?
It really depends on which tour I take. Every day is different, as every tour is different. Sometimes we start at 8 a.m. and begin travelling to our next destination. On other days, I plan guides and drivers for our clientele.
Have you got a certain style of guiding, or do you just run with it on the day?
I enjoy people and their company. I love learning from them about their home country and in return, I share interesting things about my country and its culture. Morocco is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. I have had the privilege of visiting some European countries and parts of the United States, but nothing compares with the beauty and friendship of people in Morocco. When you travel with me, I love showing the country to you through my eyes, so clients can partake of all the beauty Morocco has to offer.
I grew up in southern Morocco – that might be the reason. But journeying to the south is another trip in itself. Time in the south has stopped, there are many villages where people know one another. It is where people help each other, they are the friendliest people on earth.
The landscape is so pretty and always changing. Here, you can encounter the majestic landscapes of green oases, deep gorges, barren areas and, of course, the windswept desert dunes. The south of Morocco is a photographer’s paradise.
What is the best part of your job?
Meeting other people and learning a bit about different parts of the world from them. I now have friends all around the world!
What about the Sahara Desert do you love?
It is a special place, nights filled with millions of stars, beautiful landscapes and the silence of it all. I think I enjoy the friendship of people that share a love for the desert. Sitting in the dunes, sipping mint tea, sharing stories, singing and drumming, while around you are the beautiful desert dunes and above you, a black carpet covered by millions of blinking stars. My wife says she has never seen so many shooting stars anywhere in the world like in the desert. It is a great place to relax and let go.
Camels are interesting animals. They have to eat all the time, like cows. They can drink anything, really: milk, juice, even beer or wine. They are very graceful with their ability to walk on the desert dunes and not bury their feet in the sand.
They are trained as any other animal. Often, we get camels from nomads and you really have to train them to carry people. They are used to carrying heavy stuff (and they can carry a lot of weight) but not people so they could shake them off.
What one thing must first-time travellers to Marrakech see, and why? What one meal or dish should they try, and why?
Any traveller visiting Marrakech must visit Djema el-Fna square, a square which dominates Marrakech and opens to the Koutoubia Mosque. It is important to visit the square in the morning, afternoon and evening: it changes so much with the day. Then I recommend going to a hammam, to experience a scrub: getting rid of your old skin and leaving you clean and refreshed.
There are many dishes one should try when visiting Morocco, but the most important is tajine. There are many ways to prepare this dish, but any of the tajines you try, I am sure you will love. They are prepared with fresh and aromatic spices that will not only open your taste buds but your other senses as well, such as your sense of smell and vision.
Sometimes I spend too much time on the phone. I have to ensure that all hotels and meals are reserved and booked and it does take up a bit of my time.
As an experienced guide yourself, can you explain to our readers what the benefits of hiring a guide are?
You can learn so much more about the country. You get to really experience the country, get a real feel for it. When you travel somewhere on your own, renting your own car, you visit many places and meet people too, but the experience is not the same.
You don’t get to stop at local places and eat lunch with families. You don’t know where are the best places to take pictures. You don’t listen to the local music, you don’t get the off-roads or less used routes that offer better experiences. You don’t know why women in one place wear black clothes, and in another, white clothes. Travelling with a guide is so much better and a more authentic experience.
In your view, what makes a good tour guide?
A tour guide must like people and the company of others. He must like talking but also know when to be quiet, so people can have some time on their own. He must tailor himself to the clients. Whether there are elderly or young people or a family with children, everyone needs a bit of something else, so as a good tour guide you have to find this and know what it is.