Traditional Gnaou Music in Khamlia, Merzouga


About four miles (7 km) from the popular desert hub of Merzouga lies the small village of Khamlia (Khemliya), where a community of Gnaou musicians resides. Many also refer to Khamlia as the "southern gateway to the Sahara," as it sits near the border with Algeria, where the Sahara Desert officially begins. Enjoy a visit to the town to meet the locals, listen to their music, dance, and sip traditional tea.

Khamlia has a long history of supporting a community dedicated to music, dancing, healing, and spirituality. The people originally lived as nomads in the Erg Chebbi and Sahara deserts but settled in the town in the 20th century. As a result, they have roots in sub-Saharan countries, including Sudan, Mali, and Niger. You'll sit with some of the locals and musicians to listen to traditional Gnaou music, a truly unique and exciting cultural experience.

The music involves a lot of chanting and clanking, and the dancing a lot of jumping. This is because it represents freedom from slavery, which decimated many African communities for centuries. You can bring the experience home with you, as the groups often sell their music to visitors.

Discover more activities in the deserts of Morocco.

Itineraries with Traditional Gnaou Music in Khamlia

Marrakech, Grand Desert Tour & Hiking in the Atlas Mountains - 7 Days

Discover the grandeur of Morocco with this seven-day itinerary. Spend the night under the stars in a Bedouin-style tent, traipse through narrow passageways in ancient kasbahs, and hike the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. You'll ride a camel, swim in an oasis, share a meal with a Berber family, and wander exotic souks and bazaars.

Morocco Grand Tour: Cities, Desert & the Coast - 10 Days

Make the most of 10 days in Morocco with this whirlwind trip that begins and ends in Casablanca. Explore the ancient Imperial City of Fes and its medieval medina, then follow old desert caravan routes and ride a camel through shifting dunes to spend the night in a Sahara camp. Get lost in the heady spice markets and souks of Marrakesh, and transfer to the coast to cool off in laid-back Essaouira.

Moroccan Desert & Hiking in the Atlas Mountains - 8 Days

This 8-day trip mixes culture and adventure in Marrakech, the desert, and High Atlas mountains. Start and end in Marrakech and explore the historic medina's souks, timeworn tombs, old madrasas, and secret gardens. Pass over the High Atlas mountains into Morocco's desert and discover medieval kasbahs, caravan routes, and the Saharan dunes. Finish with a two-day hike through small villages in the Atlas foothills, enjoying a meal and overnight with a local family.

Imperial Cities, Moroccan Deserts & Hiking the Atlas Mountains - 12 Days

This 12-day grand tour is a perfect mix of culture and adventure. Start in Casablanca and wander the medinas of Fes and Marrakesh. Explore desert towns, oases, and old kasbahs, ending with two days of hiking in the foothills of the Atlas mountains, spending an evening with a local family.

Southern Morocco Nature & Culture: Marrakesh, Boumalne Dades, Essaouira & More - 10 Days

Hit the sands of the Sahara and the shores of Tifnit Beach with this 10-day itinerary through some of southern Morocco's highlights. Hear the hum of the city in Marrakesh before you head into the desert on a camel trek, including a night in a tent under the stars. Then get refreshed on Tifnit Beach and in the artsy coastal city of Essaouira before you head home.