Visiting the UNESCO heritage site of Ait Bn Haddou was a stop on my three day trip to the Sahara from Marrakesh, Morocco. Ait Ben Haddou is a well preserved and restored example of a ksar, that is, a collection of traditional earthen houses surrounded by a defensive wall and protective corner towers. Here is my experience of Ait Ben Haddou in photos.
We arrived at the modern day village across the river from Ait Ben Haddou around mid morning. Access to the UNESCO site is by walking only. A new bridge makes it easy to cross over the Wadi Maleh which means “salt water”, and leads to the path that climbs and climbs uphill through the remains of this ksar. Ait Ben Haddou is said to be a great example of pre-Saharan mud brick and wood architecture, though now, the oldest structures are from the 17th century. At one time in its history, this fortified village was on the Saharan Africa to Marrakesh trade route, which also went over the Tizi-n-Tichika pass, the same pass that we drove through on our way here from Marrakesh.
Trade is still important in this historic village, and the route as I walked up through the new town, was lined by various merchants, though fortunately they were not very annoying in their attempts to get my attention.
I had my first views of the fortified village as I approached the new bridge over the river.
Once across the bridge, the path climbed through the densely packed houses. The larger kasbahs, or towered keeps belonged to the wealthier merchants, though most of the village seemed to be a labyrinth of small dwellings and passageways. Apparently, a few families still call this home, while the rest of the population has moved to the more modern village across the river. Even though the site was not lived in, the paths uphill were lined with more merchants displaying colorful and tempting wares.
As I continued my uphill climb, the merchants melted away and the stunning views over the ksar and the valley began to spread out and kept getting better the higher I went.
The 360º view at the top was especially spectacular with the snow capped Atlas Mountains visible in the distance.
If the site looks at all familiar it is probably because Ait Ben Haddou has been used as a set by Hollywood since the 1960’s. Blockbuster movies like Lawrence of Arabia, The Jewel of the Nile and Gladiator have been filmed here, as well as most recently, The Game of Thrones. In fact, it was the movie industry that started the preservation process of Ait Ben Haddou before it was even listed as a UNESCO site.
I really enjoyed my visit to Ait Ben Haddou, though the hour or so that I had there was not nearly long enough to explore all the nooks and crannies. Still, it provided a good overview of one of Morocco’s popular UNESCO sites.
Please note that my visit to Ait Ben haddou was part of a trip hosted by Merzouga Luxury Desert Camps. All content is my own.
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