Get To Know Morocco Guide Hmad Oussou

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Having been guiding since 2002, Hmad Oussou knows a thing or two about Morocco, including the peace of the Sahara Desert and just what dish you should try in Marrakech. With his company Merzouga Journeys Tours, Hmad can also show you all the secrets of his home town, Merzouga, like the desert lakes and abandoned oases.
How did you get into guiding in Morocco? How did you make the transition to becoming a tour guide?

[I was] born in Merzouga and from childhood, joined travellers climbing the sand dunes at sunset and sunrise. Then, it became a hobby, guiding people around the desert landscapes, even during my university studies. On holidays, [I would] get more experience and knowledge about all of the country. One thing led to another until I started the company and started to organise desert tour trips from Marrakech and Fes, and tours of Morocco, with desert activities, camel ride treks and Sahara desert camp overnights.

What does a typical day look like for you?

Every morning I wake up and check the car before breakfast to be sure that every thing is alright for the new day’s adventure. [Then] I meet my customers and [find out] how they spent their night and if they are ready for the next part of the journey. The day then begins with new sightseeing and experiences as we have to drive to the next destination with new scenery such as valleys and palm groves, or tour around the desert sand dunes on the multiple day tours.

Have you got a certain style of guiding, or do you just run with it on the day?

Well, every day I do my best to satisfy the customers. You have to listen to clients and give them free time to enjoy the scenery and landscapes.

What one thing, sight or story about your hometown, Merzouga, should people not miss?

The Merzouga desert is not just sand dunes [or] a camel ride in the Sahara desert overnight. A full day of sightseeing is highly recommended to get an idea about visiting desert lakes, nomads in the black desert, abandoned oases and natural fossils beds.

What is the best part of your job?

At any moment of any tour, my customers enjoy their trip and they really get what they came for and go back home with an experience.

What’s the most bizarre experience you’ve had on a guided tour?

It’s not bizarre but [due to] natural circumstances. [In the] winter season, we were blocked in on the way driving back from the desert to Marrakech through the Atlas Mountains. [We were] blocked with snow from both directions. [On] the road between Marrakech and the desert, you have to pass through the high Atlas Mountains and through Tichka Pass, [it's] a snaky road (10 km distance and time is needed to clean this by local authorities) so we stayed waiting hours [with it] still snowing from time to time. We stayed in the car, [there were] three people on that trip ([we had the] car on from time to time to get warm, and sometimes walked, as there were Berber villages nearby). From time to time we drove a distance following the plow trucks clearing the road until we got off. Fortunately it was just for seven hours, then the people got to Marrakech. We arrived in the morning with enough time to get some rest and shower before the transfer to the airport. Travellers should always have an extra night in the city from which they are flying.

Are you ever worried about getting lost in the Sahara Desert? What precautions do you take to avoid this? What does the Desert make you think about?

Driving or walking by day or even by night, [I am] never worried about getting lost and once I am in the Sahara Desert, I feel totally relaxed and open minded, [I have] freedom and peace.

Merzouga Journeys offers camel treks – do you ever guide these? If so, how difficult an animal is a camel to work with? What one thing must you make sure to never do when riding a camel?

We do offer camel rides and I work in some tours guiding camels for some distances to the camp through the dunes. The camel is a social animal and easy going, just ride and it will take you where you ask. Just enjoy your ride and don’t make noise.

How many languages do you speak? What is a good phrase for travellers to Morocco to learn and why?

I speak six languages: Berber, Arabic, French, Spanish, Italian and English.

Two good phrases [which are] used more and mean a lot in Moroccan daily conversation are ‘Shoukran bzaf’ (thank you very much) and ‘Salam alaykoum’ or ‘Salam’ (Hello).

What one thing must first time travellers to Marrakech see, and why? What one meal or dish should they try, and why?

Once we say ‘Marrakech’, the Medina and the square of Jamaa Lafna come first to mind for travellers; a magic place and unique in the world, where we can see a rainbow of things from all of Morocco. Couscous or tagine are the official meals of Morocco.

Every job has its ups and downs. Are there any aspects of your job that you don’t like or aren’t that keen on?

Desert tours are the same landscapes and itineraries. Cleaning the car at the end of each tour to be sure it is perfect for the next…but I enjoy [meeting] with great travellers who are enjoying the country for the first time.

As an experienced guide yourself, can you explain to our readers what the benefits of hiring a guide are? In your view, what makes a good tour guide?

Well, we know the country inch by inch, its culture and traditions. This makes it easier for people hiring a guide to know and understand the depths and the truth of the country.

A good tour guide welcomes his customers, introduces himself and gives an introduction of what to expect on the tour. [He] will show all the sights on the itinerary, and not only be on time, but also manage the time so the customers know how long they have at an attraction, what time they’re expected to return and he will ensure you’re back on time and be familiar with the country.

If you like this you might also like Explore Morocco, Explore Marrakech and This Video Will Put Morocco On Your Bucket List.

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