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Morocco’s Goulmima: the Pearl of the Desert

Goulmima – South Eastern Morocco is a treat to the desert lovers where the sun, the moon, the stars, the sky and the plain view spreading before their eyes offer them an escape towards the serenity of heavenly scenes.

Goulmima derives its name from Aglmam/Lake. Goulmima is an oasis located at the foot of the Atlas Mountains in South Eastern Morocco where the common language is Tamazight. It is also referred to as Ghris or Tizi n’ Imnayn. Its ever green palm trees spread 15 km along the banks of the seasonal Ghris River and its economic resources are mainly agricultural.

 Goulmima is 60 km south of the province of Errachidia in the region of Meknes-Tafilalet. Its width is estimated of 3 to 4 km with a population of approximate 18-000 inhabitants. The common system of irrigation depends on the seasonal precipitations and the springs in the neighboring oasis ofTifunasin.

Morocco’s Goulmima- the Pearl of the Desert

The French protectorate entered Morocco in 1912, and it was not until September 18 of 1932 that Goulmima fell under the French control after a long and powerful resistance. In 1945, Goulmima had its first school built inside Ksar n’ Igulmimen. It was called Tibaqshin– Sparrows. The school consisted of 10 classrooms and provided about 314 seats. It contributed to education in the area since it first opened its doors in January 2 of 1948. However, today, nothing is left from it but its ruins. After the dilapidated condition of some parts of the Ksar; a majority of its population left to settle outside its walls where 6 primary schools were built, two secondary schools and one high school that all continue to contribute to education in the area.

If you head south from Errachidia towards Tinejdad and Tinghir, the gorgeous green carpet that stretches down the hill of Asdrem is inescapable. This hill offers a panoramic view of Goulmima and weather, permitting makes, Tinejdad visible from 18 km away.

On one end of the U-shaped Asdrem hill, a wall built by the Portuguese stubbornly fights time’s erosion and stands as a witness of their passage by the city. The wall is commonly called Berdqis– Portuguese.

Morocco’s Goulmima- the Pearl of the Desert

Goulmima hosts its visitors and tourists with traditional accommodations, mainly represented in inns that most often constitute the owner’s sole source of living.

Outside the main door of Goulmima’s historical site Ighrem n’Iguelmimen– castle of lakes- lies a public square called Inourir. It is a common space for threshing and drying crops. It is famous for its reputation as a “platform” for couples to flirt with each other, or Taqrfiyt, publicly. The square was also reserved by local authorities for celebrations.

Goulmima is home to a myriad of ethnicities and races. Its populous white race is represented by the tribe of Ait Merghad hailing from Amedghous in 1884. Also inhabitants of Goulmima are the Haratine ethnicity “which is mainly dark” as well as minorities like Shorafa, Ait Baali U7mad, and Ait Atta.

Morocco’s Goulmima- the Pearl of the Desert (Gnawa Music)

A festivity marking the diversity in Goulmima is the festival of masks of Uddayn n’ Ashur– Jews of Ashura- which is celebrated two months after the religious holiday Aid Al-Adha. This Judeo-Berber tradition is held annually to commemorate a Jewish tradition that used to be celebrated by the Jews of Ighrem n’ Igulmimen’s Mellah neighborhood. Berbers celebrate the festival by donning masks and parading in the streets of the city reciting chants that recount the daily activities of two Jewish protagonists Biha and Moshe. The occasion is an outlet for local to voice their opinions and demands in the agora of Inourir Square where original spontaneous plays are performed by ordinary people.

Among the many festivals and cultural events organized by civil society is an annual summer festival of mysticism and spirituality where a Sufi group called Ismkhan-Gnawa- of dark skinned Berbers perform dances and repeat religious chants in a very spectacular scene.

Despite its remote location from imperial cities, Goulmima has introduced prominent officials and well educated youth to society who occupy high ranking positions in Moroccan administrations. Famous Moroccan Berbers of significant reputation amongst poets were Amr Umahfud, Lbaz, Sakku, Asis, Umar Taous, Umar Darwish, Ali Cherwit, Hamid Amhal “Itij”, Muha Bensaine, Hamid Talibi…and many others who have preserved in the past and currently the cultural heritage of the region.

Morocco’s Goulmima- the Pearl of the Desert. Morocco World News

Youth in Goulmima have dreams which go beyond the majestic Asdrem hill that hides the horizon. The region has been suffering from marginalization despite its history of resisting the French and the remarkable reputation of producing geniuses who defied their hard life conditions. This situation has been a major incentive behind the detrmination of youth to overcome the scarcity of opportunities to celebrate the cultural heritage of the city and at the same time try to make their voices heard and hopefully bring attention to Goulmima. Some youth,  played self learned music instruments and formed music bands like Imenza and Tinba while others resorted to sports competed at national competitions.

Goulmima might be in the middle of the desert but its people remain connected to the rest of Morocco as an integral part of its diversity and culture. The people of Goulmima love their country and work hard to contribute to its growth and prosperity.

Edited by Sahar Kian. Photos by AddI Ziouani 

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