Properly known as M'Hamid el-Ghizlane, or Plain of the Gazelles, M'Hamid neatly marks the end of Morocco's Great Oasis Valleys and the end of the asphalt road. It was once an outpost for the camel corps of the French Foreign Legion, and a large military barracks reminds visitors that the Algerian border is not far away. Looking at modern M’Hamid—a one-street village with overeager tour companies hustling for business—you
may wonder what's worth defending, but consider the obvious upside. The Sahara awaits at the end of the main street, making this a vital departure point for desert forays, most notably to Morocco’s highest dunes at Erg Chigaga, 50 km (31 miles) west.
In the palm groves just before M’Hamid, the outlying villages of Ouled Driss and Bounou have interesting kasbahs that can be visited. A short hop across the dried river bed of the Drâa, next to M’Hamid’s mosque, takes you toward the site of the original village, some 2 km (1 mile) away, where a 17th-century Jewish-built kasbah is still inhabited by the local Haratin population.
The sand drifting like snow across the road (despite the placement of palm-frond sand breaks and fences), the immensity of the horizon, plus the patient gait of camels combine to produce a palpable change in the sense of time and space at this final Drâa oasis. The ocean of dunes 7 km (4½ miles) beyond M'Hamid will satisfy any craving for some real Saharan scenery.