Discover Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou in Ouarzazate, Morocco
Ait Ben Haddou (or Aït Benhaddou) is a small Moroccan town located in the province of Ouarzazate, 190 km from Marrakech. It is the most famous ksar of the valley of Ounila. The Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou is a striking example of southern Moroccan architecture.
This legendary town sits on the edge of the High Atlas Mountains. It is made up of a set of mud brick buildings, and contrary to what one can sometimes read or hear, it is not a Kasbah, but a Ksar (fortified village). It is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
What to see in Aït-ben-Haddou?
This Ksar is an extraordinary set of traditional buildings offering a complete panorama of construction techniques in pre-Saharan land. The oldest buildings do not seem to be older than the 17th century, although their structure and technique spread very early in the valleys of southern Morocco.
Ait Ben Haddou is best known for being the setting for many films, mostly to replace Jerusalem. It has appeared in ten films, including Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.
The sunlight on the fortified village offers superb colors, it is a feast for the eye. The ksar is built on the sides of a hill, which makes the spectacle even more beautiful. Inside, it feels like you are visiting an open-air museum! Entrance into the fortress is free.
The community areas of Ksar include a mosque, a public square, ceremonial threshing grounds outside the walls, a fortification and an attic at the top of the village, a caravanserai, two cemeteries (Muslim and Jewish) and the shrine of the Saint Sidi Ali or Amer. The Ksar of Ait Ben Haddou is a perfect synthesis of the earthen architecture of the pre-Saharan regions of Morocco.
Ksar Ait Ben Haddou has retained its architectural authenticity in terms of configuration and materials. The architectural style is well preserved and the buildings are perfectly adapted to the climatic conditions and in harmony with the natural and social environments.
How to get to Aït-ben-Haddou from Marrakech?
The ksar of Aït-ben-Haddou is located 33 km north of Ouarzazate and 190 km south of Marrakech.
Buses do not go directly to Aït Benhaddou, but can drop you off at the fork (between the N9 and P1506) about 7 km from your destination. At this location, you will normally find several taxis waiting. A seat will cost you around 10 dirhams or 1$. The entire taxi costs 60 dirhams, or 6$.
If you are driving, take the national road 9 from Marrakech, and therefore turn at the fork with the P1506 road.
If you want to go there for a single day from Marrakech, know that it is best to do so with a specialized agency. Also be aware that you will spend almost 8h round trip in transport, which can be really tiring. It is advisable to sleep on site if you want to take your time.
Sleep on site in Aït-ben-Haddou
You can sleep on site in one of the village inns. Most of the hotels / inns in Aït-ben-Haddou offer a restaurant where you can taste Berber specialties.