Nestled in the middle of the Ounila Valley is Ait Ben Haddou, an ancient Ksar along the former caravan route from the Sahara to Marrakech. Famous for being a hotspot for film sets such as Gladiator and Game of Thrones, no one lives in the Ksar any longer, but 4 families in ancient mudbrick houses.
Photography by Svadore
After tons of research on Google, I wasn’t sure if Pat and I should take a detour and stop by Ait Ben Haddou for a night. Aside from it being a UNESCO World Heritage site, I couldn’t find much else to do on Google! We ended up adding it on to our trip and we did not regret it.
Nestled in the middle of the Ounila Valley, Ait Ben Haddou is an ancient Ksar along the former caravan route from the Sahara to Marrakech. No one lives in the Ksar any longer, but 4 families remain in the ancient mudbrick houses. The rest of the civilization decided to move to more modern dwellings just steps away from the Ksar, on the other side of the river.
To get there you need to first make your way through the more modern dwellings. You will then reach a point at the edge of the town, were you can look down at the river and take panoramic pictures of the UNESCO site. When looking at the Ksar, scenes from The Mummy, Gladiator and Game of Thrones come to mind – as this area is used as a setting in the making of many films. In fact, just 30 minutes away you will find two famous studios where many of these films have been shot.
To get to the Ksar you will have to go through two different routes. The first is across a river (Pat and I took this option). We were there when the river was still low, so were able to make our way through by hopping on a few rocks. Children from the town will offer to help you across the rocks for some spare change, but it’s up to you whether you want to accept their help or not. When the river is in full swing, the townspeople offer camel rides across the river for some spare change so there is no need to worry about the height of the river. If you choose this route, you will have to enter through the old Kasbah and pay a $2 entrance fee to see the remnants of the old Kasbah. Option two is to cross over the bridge on the other end of the Kasbah. This will give you a less panoramic view of the Ksar, but will offer you a free passage to the site.
Spend an afternoon getting lost in the old Ksars streets, stop for tea in one of the old mudbrick houses, and make your way to the top of the Ksar for breathtaking views of the Ounila Valley. Pat and I made our way back down and crossed the bridge to return to the modern medina. There we perused some of the boutiques before heading home for some afternoon tea before dinner.
Overall, I highly recommend going to Ait Ben Haddou. My description might not give it any justice, but the history and breathtaking architecture is unlike anything you’ll ever see. Plus, who doesn’t like being in a place that shot some of the most iconic movies of all time. If you decide to add this as a stop to your Moroccan trip, I highly recommend you spend a night at Riad Caravane following your day trip through the UNESCO World Heritage site. The Riad offers splendid views of the top of the Ksar and romantic sunsets over the Ounila Valley. To read about my experience at Riad Caravane click here.
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