The Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou is a walled city, or ksar, along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech or the so-called in Morocco today. located 190 kilometres from Marrakech. It is a spectacular village of clay and stone with buildings surrounded by great walls, an aspect that makes it one of the most beautiful and attractive places in Morocco for all those tourists who plan to visit this North African country.
Ait ben Haddou
The name of this particular settlement is derived from the tribal group. (Ait) means tribe or group of families in Tamazight (Berber) language, Benhaddou is the name of the tribe. Indicating the Ksar was originally constructed by the sons of a Berber leader called Haddou.
The Kasbahs are architectural ensembles built of adobe and mud, crowned by towers that serve as defence, are buildings similar to the medieval castles. These kasbahs were formerly great walled Berber villages designed with the aim of defending, the houses, the crops and the palm groves that grow along their banks. These peoples formed large agrarian and mercantile communities with a very particular vision on Islam.
Ait Ben Haddou is one of the best-preserved Kasbahs in all of Morocco. It is an outstanding example of the construction of the Kasbahs that can be found in the area of the valleys of Dra, Todgha, Dades and Sous. In Ait Ben Haddou you can see how the constructions are realized in a strategic position facing a mountain, surrounded by angular towers and a defensive wall. The date Ait Ben Haddou is not known with determination. Convinced of their importance, the authorities have protected this place since 1953.
Most citizens living in the region now live in more modern housing in a nearby village, but there are four families who still live in the ancient city. This giant fortification, which has six kasbahs and ksours which are nearly fifty individuals kasbah, is an excellent example of the clay earthen architecture. Located in the foothills of the southern slopes of the High Atlas in Ouarzazate province, the site of Ait Ben Haddou Ksar is the most famous in the Valley Ounila.
Ait-Ben-Haddou was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Morocco in 1987. Interestingly, this site has a very strong bond with Hollywood. David Lean chose Ait-Ben-Haddou as the perfect location for his movie, ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, in the year 1962. On closer inspection, Lean discovered that the buildings were starting to fall into disrepair and so he quickly set about restoring some of the unique homes. Due to continuous restoration work and the recognition of the importance of this site, the front half of this amazing site is in very good condition. Unfortunately, there are buildings situated near the back of the city that are still in desperate need of attention.
Other famous movies that have been filmed here include ‘The Jewel of the Nile’ in 1985, ‘The Living Daylights’ in 1987, ‘Kundun’ in 1994, ‘The Mummy’ in 1999 and more recently ‘Gladiator’ was filmed here in 2000 and ‘Alexander’ in 2004. Visitors to the site are not only astonished at the historical beauty and uniqueness of this World Heritage Site in Morocco, but many find themselves in awe of the fact that they can walk the same streets as some of their favourite movie stars once did.
Its crenellated towers are decorated with blind arches and geometric designs that create an effect of lights and shadows. The profile of the buildings, the impressive surroundings and the gentleness of its people have seen several film crews go through for many decades.
Ait ben Haddou Kasbah Tower
During the hot summer days, it is difficult to see people strolling through the streets, which seem to get lost in the shadows of the labyrinthine alleyways and subterranean passages. However, in the present village along the road – very close to the Kasbah – there are shops prepared for tourism with fossil and mineral offerings, from pure crystals with mixtures of different minerals to an incredible amount of fossils that Should be taken care of as archaeological jewels, but the state does not yet have the budget to protect them, and it seems that no one has yet to take up the issue. In the village, you can also find Moroccan handicrafts of all kinds: clay pots, iron tools, leather belts, wool, handmade glass and a few small treasures that you can find while there.
Although the landscape is arid and rocky, water is not scarce. The land is of little vegetation, although the date palm, the fig tree, the orange tree and the lemon tree, among other fruit trees like the almond tree or the apple tree, abounds. In a wide view of the landscape, we can see different shades of red, depending on the time of day, with its numerous fortified towers that seem attached to the mountain. As we said before if you can, it is very advisable to pay a visit to the tower of the old Kasbah, where you will find wonderful panoramic views of the region with the High Atlas as a backdrop. A unique and unforgettable spectacle that will fill you with the timeless essence of this untamed land and the archaic and tenacious way of life of its people.