Ait Benhaddou has a distinctive look with sand-coloured houses, a massive fortification made up of six kasbahs and nearly fifty ksours (individual kasbahs) all protected by UNESCO.
This fortified village located in Southeastern Morocco, about 30km from Ouarzazate seems frozen in time resembling an elaborate sandcastle.
The maze of narrow streets and crenulated towers are mainly from the 17th century. A great example of pisé clay architecture.
Ait Benhaddou lies on the old trans-Saharan trade route, at the border of the High Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert. Ait Benhaddou is one of the most extraordinary Kasbahs in Morocco. Ksar refers to a group of houses made by soil and surrounded by high walls.
Ait Benhaddou has been used as the backdrop for many popular movies but is more than just a film set.
Things to do
To be honest, there isn’t a whole lot to do at Ait Benhaddou, what doesn’t mean that is not a great place to visit. Exploring the old kasbah by itself is a delight.
Walking around on Ait Benhaddou maze of winding streets until reaching a fortified granary is an absolute must.
From the top, you get an amazing view of the valley and the stony desert that stretches almost into infinity.
Make sure you hike both hills because they offer completely different views of the surrounding area. The hill above the kasbah, and the hill across from the kasbah.
Inside the houses, you see small dark rooms with uneven floors and tiny windows. Nowadays the buildings are still constructed using hand-made bricks. Flat roofs are common here and used as open-air bedrooms.
The upper floors are normally adorned with ornate patterns. The more sophisticated the richer their owner is.
Without the hassle of major cities is also nice to admire the local crafts. Both sunset and sunrise are undoubtedly spectacular and not to be missed.
Ait Benhaddou — One of the most famous villages in Morocco
I just want to reinforce the idea, that despite finding Ait Benhaddou quite picturesque, depending on the time you visit, the village can be thronged with tourists. Game of Thrones seems to to have done quite a good job at putting this village on the map.
There are still a few families living in the ksar, other houses are open to visitors for a fee of 10 dirhams.
If you spend the night the kasbah empties out and becomes a peaceful spot to watch the sun go down.
Getting there from Marrakech
The cheapest way is by bus but the best option is to rent a car.
Two companies travel here the CTM and Supratours, I heard that they have other local companies, that are a bit cheaper, but not as reliable as the other two.
In Marrakech take a bus to Ouarzazate and tell the driver you want to be let off at the intersection to Ait Benhaddou (stop at the crossroads in Taborah).
From the stop to Ait Benhaddou are 16Km, but are always a few taxis around waiting for passengers. You need a taxi ride to get you to the actual kasbah.
There are two option, a collective taxi (5DH) or a private taxi. Negotiating the price for private taxi is important (~30DH). The drive only takes 10 minutes.
How Long to Stay in Ait Ben Haddou
Most people come here on a day trip for 1 or 2 hours. I think one day and one night is just ideal.
photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha