If your tour starts in Marrakech or Ourzazate we can include a visit to the spectacular site at Ait Ben haddou, famously used as a location for various movies including Gladiator, Babel and the Prince of Persia. It really is an experience not to be missed, but sensible footwear is advised, as it is quite a climb to the top. The views are definitely worth it though. The Ksar is also occupied by numerous artists, jewellery and garment and carpet sellers so you may want to have some cash handy…
Located in the foothills on the southern slopes of the High Atlas in the Province of Ouarzazate, on the ancient trade route between Marrakech and the Sahara the site of Ait-Ben-Haddou is the most famous ksar in the Ounila Valley. a striking example of southern Moroccan architecture,
The ksar, a group of earthen buildings surrounded by high walls, is a traditional pre-Saharan habitat in the form of a fortified village,with the houses crowded together within the defensive walls, which are reinforced by angle towers and pierced with a baffle gate. Some are modest dwellings. others resemble small urban castles with their high angle towers and upper sections decorated with motifs in clay brick. Four families still live in the ancient village, although most people who work there live in the modern village across the river.
The community areas of the ksar include a mosque, a public square, grain threshing areas outside the ramparts, a fortification and a loft at the top of the village, an caravanserai, two cemeteries (Muslim and Jewish) and the Sanctuary of the Saint Sidi Ali or Amer.
It is an extraordinary ensemble of buildings offering a complete panorama of pre-Saharan earthen construction techniques. The oldest constructions are probably no earlier than the 17th century, but their structure and technique were propagated from a very early period in the valleys of southern Morocco. The site was also one of the many trading posts on the commercial route linking ancient Sudan to Marrakesh by the Dra Valley and the Tizi-n’Telouet Pass.
All images copyright Katherine Soutar Caddick