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Mhamid El Ghizlane

Head of Trans-Saharan traffic in the sixteenth century, Taragalte (the ancient name of M’Hamid el Ghizlane) was one of the main cities in the province of Drâa, According to the historian Jacques Meunié in his work "Le Maroc Saharien des origines jusqu’en 1670", Taragalte was populated by more than twenty thousand inhabitants including approximately two thousand of Jewish confession. It was located in the palm grove on the banks of Oued Drâa, the most important river in the region which rises at the summit of the Atlas near Ouarzazate and empties into the Atlantic Ocean after having traveled over one thousand two hundred kilometers

The land was very fertile, agriculture, grazing and harvesting dates allowed its inhabitants to live there comfortably. Commercial caravans continued to roam the Sahara between Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and Mali until the mid-twentieth century. Its geographical location as "Gate of the Sahara" was confirmed by his majesty Mohamed 5th (grandfather of his majesty Mohamed 6th, the current king of Morocco) during his historic visit in 1958.

Hamid El Ghizlane is located one hundred kilometers from the city of Zagora and forty kilometers from the Algerian border. It is still irrigated by the Drâa river, but the "El Mansour Edahhabi" lake was built in 1972 two hundred kilometers upstream from the river has considerably reduced irrigation in the region.
Currently ten thousand people still live there, and half of them are semi-nomads, who move within a radius of two hundred kilometers and the other half have settled down.

The lack of water since the construction of the dam weighs on agriculture and the local economy and does not even allow the development of basic agricultural activities (cereals, vegetable gardens, dates etc.) which are therefore increasingly reduced . This explains the very high level of emigration (a quarter of the population, especially young people, has already emigrated to other big cities).

Due to the proximity of the dunes and the cultural and natural wealth of the Hamada du Drâa, we are witnessing an increasing tourist craze for the region. Tourism has grown strongly over the past twenty years, offering work opportunities for the local population, both sedentary and nomadic, but unfortunately this activity is not without negative consequences for the environment.

Halim Sbai and his team have promised to undertake an ambitious project to remedy existing gaps by raising awareness as much as possible among the local population, and also by alerting visitors to the fragility of the environment. A Cultural Tourism Center project in the oasis of M’Hamid on the edge of the sand dunes is in the process of being implemented. This center will complement its mobile bivouac and the actions already undertaken (planting trees, developing women's craft skills, collecting and recycling waste) to allow visitors to get involved and thus help the beneficial effects on the environment.