Driving to Ait Benhaddou made for a tiring day, but was worth it

By September 14, 2017 No Comments
Going into Ait Benhaddou

Ait Benhaddou is a World Heritage Site due to it being a striking example of earthen construction techniques. It is an outpost on the caravan route from the Sahara to Marrakech and most of the building are from the 17th century, but the Berber settlement has been around for much longer than that. Each building is built of rock and field stones and then covered with straw laced mud bricks. This gives the whole village the earthen appearance it is know for.

Ait BenhaddouThis is an amazing site because you leave the modern settlement and walk across a dry river bed (at least it was dry when we visited in August). From the river bed, you look at the front of the small village that  rises up the hill, giving it a fantastic photogenic quality.

There is a protective wall around the village and an impressive looking gate at the river. The gate looked cool, but come to find out it is just a movie prop. It turns out Ait Benhaddou is a famous site for movies and has been featured in Gladiator, The Man Who Would Be King, The Mummy, Alexander, Kingdom of Heaven, and Prince of Persia to name just a few.

Grainery at Ait Benhaddou

Grainery at Ait Benhaddou

For the most part, there is one route through the village and it leads up to the grainery, at the top of the hill (the oldest building), and then back down to a new bridge back across the river. As of now only four families still live in the ancient village (the rest of the population moved across the river in the new settlement with electricity and running water) and they live in an impressive block with four towers. I was impressed with the fact that historically there was both a Muslim and Jewish section to the village.

Jewish quarter at Ait Benhaddou

Jewish quarter at Ait Benhaddou

A tour should not take you more than 30-45 minutes to walk through the village and even though you drove 3-4 hours to get here, it is worth it. When you want lunch, you can eat right there in the new settlement. The tour buses march you into the place of their choice (and the one they get a kick back from), but we chose to visit a smaller place devoid of tourist. The hospitality was wonderful as he was grateful for the business.

One recommendation I have for you is to come here and spend a night in Ouarzazate 5km away. This way you do not have endure the long ride back that day. Plus, if you want you can venture into the Sahara desert within three or so hours, so it is a good base for more adventures.

Movie museum in Ouarzazate

In Ouarzazate there is a movie museum in the old sound stages…..of course we had to get a photo!!!!
For some reason everytime I see this set I have to say “Moses” in a deep Yul Breaner voice. Haha

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