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Explore the ksar of Ait Ben Haddou

Aït Benhaddou, Morocco


Added by Andreas Brokalakis

A UNESCO World Heritage site made famous by Hollywood

Aït Benhaddou is an ighrem or ksar (meaning a fortified village) along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech in present-day Morocco. It is considered a great example of Moroccan earthen clay architecture and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.

The ksar dates from the 17th century (at least in its current form) and is a labyrinth of connected dwellings surrounded by high ramparts and towers. Small steep streets run and twist between the houses. In the '70s a restoration process started that eventually lead to its inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage list and since then all repairs, reconstructions and renovations are carried out using traditional construction materials and techniques. Nowdays, in the ksar you may find shops, small hotels but very few residents.

Aït Benhaddou has been made famous by a lot of movies that have used it as a shooting location. Among them (according to Wikipedia) Sodom And Gomorrah, Oedipus Rex, The Man Who Would Be King,The Message, Jesus of Nazareth,Time Bandits, Marco Polo,The Jewel of the Nile, The Living Daylights, The Last Temptation of Christ, The Sheltering Sky, The Mummy, Gladiator, Alexander, Kingdom of Heaven, Babel, One Night with the King, Prince of Persia, Son of Godas well as the famous TV series Game of Thrones.

Aït Benhaddou is located at the slope of a hill next to the Ounila River and a newer settlement is located at the opposite bank of the river. This is where you may arrive by car, if you are driving on your own or by taxi. Typically buses from Marrakesh and Ouarzazate will take you up to a certain point approximately 19km away from the village and you need to take a taxi to reach Aït Benhaddou.

In order to reach the old ksar you either need to cross a bridge or cross the river using the stepping stones (in dry season the river is completely dry). We found the latter more interesting and followed that route.

Once in the ksar, you need to let yourself wander around as it is as if you dive into the past. However, there is a lot of walking to be done and much of it is uphill, therefore you should be properly prepared especially since the weather typically is very warm. There are not many shades to hide under. Better carry enough water with you as well as it can be expensive in the ksar.

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