Aït Benhaddou is a Ksar (fortified city) located approximately 3 hours drive from Marrakech. This famous Ksar is a UNESCO world heritage site (since 1987) and is situated on a hillside above the banks of the Ounila River, in the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains and close to the edge of the Sahara desert. Built by Berbers in the 17th century, Aït Benhaddou was an important fortress stronghold on the Salt caravan route where traders brought slaves, gold, ivory and salt from Saharan Africa to Marrakech.
Aït Benhaddou is a striking example of traditional southern Moroccan architecture, constructed from mud and clay bricks. The Ksar is a collection of mostly residential buildings, but some public buildings, surrounded by fortified walls with corner towers. The community areas of the ksar include a mosque, a public square, grain threshing areas outside the ramparts, a fortification and two cemeteries (Muslim and Jewish). From the top, the view of the Sahara Desert is amazing.
At its peak, thousands of people lived inside the fortified city, but today most people have moved to a new modern town on the opposite side of the Ounila River. However around 10 families still live inside the Ksar today. The Ksar is often under repair, as the natural materials used to build the Ksar often get damaged during heavy rain and bad weather.
Several major films have been shot in and around the Ksar, including Sodom And Gomorrah (1963), The Man Who Would Be King (1975), Jesus of Nazareth (1977), Marco Polo (1982), The Jewel of the Nile (1985), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), The Mummy (1999), Gladiator (2000), Alexander (2004), Kingdom of Heaven (2005), Prince of Persia (2010).
Most of our Morocco tours include a visit to Aït Benhaddou. The Ksar can be explored on foot and half a day is normally enough to see everything. It can get very hot here, so make sure you wear long protective clothing and suntan lotion. In terms of eating and drinking, restaurants and hotels are in short supply but there are a few that serve traditional Berber and Moroccan cuisine.
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