Ait Ben Haddou: ksar of Amazigh

Ait Ben Haddou resembles a clay and stone village with massive walls enclosing the structures. The proximity of Marrakech (about 190 kilometers away) makes this fortress a joint excursion for tourists from the ‘red city.’ People who want to visit the desert and southern Morocco should consider this place as one of the most beautiful in the country.

These kasbahs were formerly large Amazighvillages in the Moroccan desert. They were walled and designed to defend the houses, crops, and palm groves that grow along their riverbeds. These communities formed large agrarian and mercantile communities with a unique vision of Islam.

Ait Ben haddou a bit of history

Aït Ben Haddou is a ksar that builds in the Ounila valley. This valley was one of the crossing points between Marrakech and the southern Sahara for caravans.

The oldest elements of ksar date back to the 17th century. The ksar of Aït Ben Haddou has retained its organization, construction, and materials authenticity. He uses red earth, which is very common in southern Morocco.

In addition to a mosque and two graves (one Muslim, the other Jewish), the ksar Ait Ben Haddou contains a public area, an attic, and various cultural and agricultural relics. Because of the frequent occurrence of drought in this part of Morocco, preserving the cereals harvested in the previous years in the granary was possible.

The Kasbah Ait Ben haddou, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. is an example of how people build things like this in southern Morocco. But also a model of life and organization in this region of Morocco.

 What to see in Ait Ben haddou?

As a whole, the city already deserves to be admired at length. The sunlight on the fortified village offers great colors; it is a feast for the eye. The ksar is built on the sides of a hill, making the spectacle even more beautiful. Inside, it feels like visiting an open-air museum! Entrance to the fortress is free so refuse people who want to charge you something to pass through their house.

The collective granary (Agadir) at the top of the hill is impressive and worth climbing. Watch out for little “entrepreneurs” who want to help you upstairs in the attic. They wait until you have your back turned to remove the small makeshift staircase that allowed you to go up and “demand” a bribe to enable you to go down again…

The mausoleum of Ben-Haddou, on the other side of the city, is also worth seeing. It is at the foot of the hill on the other side of the town.

Before arriving, but also once at the top of the village, enjoy the incredible views of the region.

Kasbah Ait Ben haddou

Is Ait Ben Haddou worth visiting?

It’s 190 kilometers south of Marrakech and 33 kilometers north of Ouarzazate to get to Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou. It takes four hours to drive from Marrakech, not the two-and-a-half hours shown on the map. It’s all up to you, whether you take the bus or rent a car, and how fast you go.

Buses do not go directly to Aït Ben haddou but can drop you off at the junction (between the N9 and the P1506), about 7 km from your destination. At this location, you will typically find several taxis waiting. A seat will cost you around 10 dirhams or €0.90. The whole cab costs 60 dirhams or 5.30€.

If you are driving, you must take national road 9 from Marrakech and turn at the junction with the P1506 road.

If you want to get there in a single day from Marrakech, know that it is best to do so with a specialized agency. Also be aware that you will spend almost 8 hours round trip in transport, which can be tiring. It is advisable to sleep there if you want to take your time.

Sleep on site in Ait Ben Haddou

You can sleep on site in one of the village inns. Most of the hotels/hostels in Aït-ben-Haddou offer a restaurant where you can taste Amazighspecialties. To find a hotel in Aït-ben-Haddou,

You can also take advantage of your getaway to Aït-ben-Haddou to continue towards Ouarzazate and sleep in Ouarzazate.

Kasbah Ben haddou

What has been filmed in Ait Ben Haddou?

Ait Ben Haddou has been used as a filming location for many movies and TV shows, due to its impressive architecture and historical significance. Some of the most popular productions filmed at Ait Ben Haddou include:

  1. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) – The film, which tells the story of British officer T. E. Lawrence during the First World War, used the kasbah as a backdrop for many of its scenes.

  2. The Mummy (1999) – This action-adventure film starring Brendan Fraser was also partly filmed at Ait Ben Haddou.

  3. Gladiator (2000) – The famous arena scenes in the film, which starred Russell Crowe and won several Academy Awards, were filmed in and around Ait Ben Haddou.

  4. Alexander (2004) – The biographical war film directed by Oliver Stone, which starred Colin Farrell as Alexander the Great, also used Ait Ben Haddou as a filming location.

  5. Game of Thrones (2011-2019) – Ait Ben Haddou was used as the filming location for the fictional city of Yunkai in the third season of the hit TV series.

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