Meet the Gold Winner of the 2023 World Guide Awards Meet the Gold Winner of the 2023 World Guide Awards

Last week, the World Guide Awards celebrated the unsung heroes of travel, with Moroccan guide Hamid Oumezdou taking home the highest accolade of the evening…
04 July 2023

On Thursday 29 June, the Wanderlust World Guide Awards 2023 took place virtually for the first time. During the online ceremony, each of the 11 shortlisted guides were introduced to the audience, with several joining us live to receive awards throughout the night. The Gold Award is the highest accolade of the event, and this year’s winner was Intrepid‘s Hamid Oumezdou, a tour leader in Morocco

As the award was announced, Hamid was described as not only an amazing guide, but a wonderful human, full of kindness, care and compassion. Another nominator had said that Hamid helped them see the trip as an intimate community and cultural experience. 

Here, we ask Hamid about his experience as a guide, including his most memorable moments, favourite places, and top tips on visiting Morocco…

Tour guide Hamid Oumezdou (Hamid Oumezdou)

Hamid, can you tell us about how and when you became a guide?

I have been working as a guide in Morocco for 13 years. I lead mountain treks as well as city tours and I work through a company based in Marrakech called Intrepid DMC.

I was born and grew up in the village of Tighza in the high Atlas Mountains as the youngest of nine children. During my childhood, I witnessed tour groups coming to the village as part of their visit to Morocco, where they took part in charity projects for our village.  They built a Hammam (the traditional Moroccan bath house), a water tower, and constructed irrigation channels to carry vital water to the fields and the village.

Some of the groups came to our village school and shared activities with us. This was when I started to fall in love with the whole idea of guiding, and I began working as a porter and muleteer. After studying history and civilisation at Marrakech University, in 2009 I applied for the examination process to be a guide. There were a lot of tests including first aid and physical endurance tests, and I was lucky to be selected as one of 30 chosen from 300 applications.  This was one of the best days of my life and changed it forever.

Hamid Oumezdou leading a group in the Sahara (Hamid Oumezdou)

What do you enjoy most about it?

I enjoy everything about this job, even the challenging days. I feel really satisfied when I’m able to solve a guest’s problem for them. I think I was born to be a guide. I get thousands of lovely pieces of feedback from my guests who say that I’m the right person for the job, which makes me very proud. But most of all, I feel it in my heart that this is what I was meant to do.

I am very proud of my beautiful and modest country with such history, and I love to share that with my guests. There is such a rich culture and biodiversity in Morocco, and on many of the trips I get the chance to let my guests interact deeply with Moroccan culture, with activities like visiting family houses, sharing food with them, and sharing their daily life with them in the responsible way. 

Some of Hamid’s favourite experiences have been in Morocco’s mountains (Hamid Oumezdou)

What is your favourite place or experience in Morocco?

It is really hard to say what my favourite things about Morocco and guiding are as there’s so much variety. But to name a few: the camel treks into the Sahara desert, and sleeping under the stars in a Bedouin encampment. I also enjoy visiting to the unique and beautiful Blue City of Chefchaouen, and exploring the four imperial cities: Marrakech, Rabat, Fes and Meknes – each very different from the other and all with their own exciting vibe. Finally, climbing in the mountains, especially the tallest mountain in North Africa, Mount Toubkal, where the feeling that you get with your group when you reach the top is magical. These are my most favourite things.

I also like to show guests the real face of Islam, with its strong values of sharing and caring, and to show the heart of the Moroccan culture combined by Arab and Amazigh (the heritage of the Berber tribes that have been living in Morocco for centuries). After spending some time exploring Morocco with me and immersing themselves in our culture, traditions and religion, I love the fact that everyone falls in love with the country and I am proud to be part of the process of clearing them of any negativity that they may have had about visiting. 

Do you have any tips or advice for anyone visiting Morocco?

Open your mind and your heart to my special and welcoming country, and travel responsibly. Interact as much as you can with locals, try the variety of food we have to offer (and definitely make sure you drink lots of “Berber whiskey” – our famous Mint Tea, prepared and poured with love and care), learn a few words of the local language, bargain hard in the souks, and support us in our strive for sustainability. If you do all of that, you will keep smiling and learning.

Read next: Best things to do in Marrakech

What’s your most memorable moment during your time as a guide?

Over the many years I have worked as a guide, I’ve had some crazy adventures and met some amazing people. The thrill of helping a group make it to the top of Toubkal never gets old however many times I do it, but I think that I have two very special highlights.

We were in the Roses Valley at Boutghrar, and we came across a Berber wedding. Traditionally, these take place over a few days, and the bride and groom and all their family were completely welcoming to the group who spent two days with the whole wedding party learning about the traditions of this very special event in the Berber culture, full of symbolism, folklore and love.   

Another highlight for me was one of the most recent trips I guided up Toubkal. It was a charity trip with a group of women who were raising money to support the development and education of girls in a mountain village. We visited the village and they had a great interaction with the girls, and they pledged to take three girls a year to study at university in the UK. That made me feel incredibly proud and humble, as this will enrich the lives not only of those girls who take part, but the whole of their families and the village.

And finally, what is the funniest questions you’ve been asked as a guide?

As you may suspect, I’ve had some very funny questions asked by my guests: “Do you eat donkeys?”; “Do Moroccan women give birth laying down or standing up?”; “What will happen to my body if I eat camel meat?”; “Do we have the same sun as you in Australia?”; “Why is the sun so gold and so hot?”

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