Ait Ben Haddou The day after Morocco!
I do not think that more or less things happen to me than to others, but I do reflect a lot on each situation I live. Almost any inconsequential, everyday or routine moment can be turned into learning by looking at it in the right light. That is why I like traveling so much, without pre-established plans. Because the lessons that life gives you when you don’t expect them are the best . Reflections on my visit to Ait Ben Haddou.
The last time we spoke, he had just spent a very few days in Marrakech , the most cosmopolitan city in Morocco. This was the first leg of our drive to the desert . The next would be Ait Ben Haddou, a town that looks like something out of an Indiana Jones movie.
Crossing the Moroccan Atlas
Like any other tourist who wants to go to the desert from Marrakech , on our journey to Ait Ben Haddou we had to cross the Tizi n’Tichka or Tichka, a mountain pass located in the impressive Atlas Mountains .
In case you are not very positioned in African geography, I told you that the imposing Atlas crosses Morocco from side to side and shelters the Toubkal , the highest peak (more than 4000 meters) of this mountain range . I was there in the middle of April and, despite the fact that winter had passed, the snow refused to leave the mountains.
But that was not what impressed me most about our walk. And it is that, during the almost two hours that we were traveling that mountainous highway, I could not help but be amazed by the towns that crossed our path .
Remote, husky and humble villages, each with its own peculiarities, but all with a common denominator: they seem to camouflage themselves in the environment . The inhabitants of the Atlas know well how to take advantage of the resources that their mountains give them.
By the way, warning for boaters: the Atlas road can be very dizzying , so leave WhatsApp, raise your head and make a stop. Ah! And go slowly and carefully: there are many parts under construction.
Road to the Moroccan Sahara
After a few kilometers of pure curve we left that port and began to make contact with the desert. Now yes, we had reached the Morocco that I imagined , the most desert. And no, with desert I don’t mean the Aladdin dunes, but a collection of landscapes of this type.
As a tourist it is even attractive , but I imagine that those who face that reality every day may be a little tired. Or maybe not, maybe you learn to enjoy what life gives you and now.
Either way, you better get used to it, because the car window isn’t going to offer you much more. Well, yes, because this area of Morocco “hides” several of the most amazing places in the country . And if not, what about Ait Ben Haddou.
The ksar of Ait Ben Haddou
The ksar of Ait Ben Haddou is a movie site …
… but as real as life itself.
Although this iconic fortified city has been the scene of numerous audiovisual productions of the stature of Gladiator, The Mummy or Game of Thrones …
Brief history of Ait Ben Haddou
… its origin dates back to the Berbers , and its main purpose was to shelter those who lived there. The proximity of the Ounila river and the fertility of the land made it a good place to live.
Although there are no official figures in this regard, it seems that its first stones were laid during the 11th century , to match the arid environment. Stone by stone ended up surrounding the town with walls, it was even flanked with some watchtowers.
Only two doors allow access to the town , one of them, curiously, created for the filming of the movie The Jewel of the Nile . One more example of the influence of cinema in this settlement.
Although it had its glorious years, this ksar was practically abandoned for a long time , something that its fragile adobe architecture did not end well. And although some areas are still visibly deteriorated …
Ait Ben Haddou today
… Ait Ben Haddou is returning to its former glory, largely due to the interest of some film producers, UNESCO and, now, tourism. There are even those who have taken advantage of this resurgence to move to live in this walled city …
… although most of the locals reside in the town that is on the other side of the river .
It won’t take long for you to finish your walk through the ksar of Ait Ben Haddou, but don’t leave without climbing to the top of the hill on which it stands, about 100 meters high.
From there you have an exquisite panoramic view of the picturesque surroundings. A curious combination between the brown of the desert, the green of the crops and fruit trees, and the white of the snowy peaks of the Atlas.
The entrance, in theory, is free, although they charged me 10 dh (1 euro). I would pay them a thousand and one times, the truth.
Sleep in Ait Ben Haddou
I had to wait for my return to Morocco a year later as part of a photographic trip, to discover one of Ait Ben Haddou’s biggest secrets: spend a night there . And this ksar is a regular destination for many day tours from Marrakech or a stop to “stretch your legs”, but few decide to sleep in the area. And yet it is mind blowing.
And it is, on the one hand, because at the last hour of the day the light is beautiful and tourism is infinitely less, making it a great time to recreate yourself with the camera.
But, above all, it is because when the daylight disappears, the stars offer a unique spectacle .
In reality, almost any night stop you make on your route to Merzouga is going to give you skies like that, because there is very little light pollution in the area , but none on a stage like Ait Ben Haddou.
So now you know, if you visit Ait Ben Haddou, try to spend the night in the area. If you dare, you can even sleep inside the ksar , although options in the surroundings will not be lacking.
- If you want to share the experience with a local, check out Airbnb.
- One of the best valued economic options is L’Oasis Du Bonheur, for about 20 euros double.
- The Bagdad Café is a higher-level proposal and costs around € 45 double. More than 9.5 on Booking!
- We spent the night at the Maktoub riad, a beautiful accommodation ten minutes walk from the photogenic town.
Truly, seeing Ait Ben Haddou under the stars was, without a doubt, one of the images that will remain forever in my traveling retina . One of those unforgettable moments that I wish you could live too. Now, let’s go with Ouarzazate .