The first time I fell in love with Ksar Ait Ben Haddou was when I saw some pictures of Morocco. I found the place fascinating, that reddish fortification captivated me. Wow! What a beautiful place I thought I had to visit!
So taking advantage that we were going to spend a week in Marrakesh, we had to include it in the route plans, since I was dying to know it. The only bad thing is that we only had one day.
The day was going to turn into a sticky one. Four hours of driving from Marrakesh to the Ksar, then we went to Ouazazarte and in the late afternoon, we would return to Marrakesh. So we had a long day on the road ahead of us.
Although Ait Benhaddou is only separated from Marrakesh by 184 km, the succession of curves and more curves on the slopes of the High Atlas mountains, make the trip eternal. At least the views along the way are spectacular and you can stop in the Berber villages that dot the area.
The route winds through the port of Tizi-n’Tichka also called Tichka, which is the highest in Morocco. If you are one of those who get dizzy take some pills because you may need them.
The Story of Ait Ben Haddou:
The date of the construction of Ait Ben Haddou is uncertain, according to historians it seems to be around the 17th century. Although the local population claims that it was in 757 BC when its founder, Ben Haddou, who is said to lie in a tomb behind the town, began the construction of this impressive Ksar.
Ait Ben Haddou went through its worst period in the ’50s when it began to suffer the first symptoms of depopulation. Its citizens were gradually abandoning these traditional constructions, to go and live in more comfortable and modern houses.
This abandonment would cause collateral damage in Ait Ben Haddou since the adobe requires annual maintenance that its inhabitants periodically carried out in their homes.
The progressive emigration meant the beginning of its deterioration and possible disappearance, similar to what happened in the village of Al Hamra in Oman that I told you about in another post that you can read here.
Fortunately, in 1987 Ait Ben Haddoue was included in the list of World Heritage by UNESCO.
Why was a Ksar built on this site?
The Ksar Ait Ben Haddoue is located in the Ounila valley, it occupied a strategic position in the commercial routes of antiquity since it was a stop of the commercial caravans between Sudan and Marrakech that transported gold, silver, and slaves through the Draa valley to the imperial cities of Morocco, to change it for salt and also this was a stop on the way to the port of Essaouira.
Normally, the ksar and Kasbash in the area were located near a river, as in this case.
The Ounila River gives life to the small crops that surround the Ksar a semi-desert environment. In the case of Skoura located very close to Ouarzazate its construction was chosen next to an oasis.
For those who are interested in knowing similar constructions, there is a route called the Thousand Kasbahs, in which you can travel through ksars and kasbahs located along the valleys of Draa and Ziz.
What are the differences between Ksar and Kasbah?
I have seen many times that Ait Ben Haddou is mistakenly called a Kasbah, but it is really a Ksar, that is, a fortified village.
Ksar means fortified village. In the West it would be the equivalent of a medieval castle. Behind its walls there is a maze of houses, as well as madrasas, mosques and squares. The whole town is protected by the surrounding walls, towers and battlements.
The word “alcazar” comes from this word, “Al Qars”, meaning fortress.
Kasbah however is a house or palace, also fortified, but it belongs to only one owner, usually a nobleman or someone wealthy who manifested his opulence through the walls of his kasbah decorating it with family emblems or symbols of the tribe to which he belonged.
A Kasbah served to protect against any attack but not only had a defensive function but also the home of a family. The Kasbah is divided into several floors each with a different use.
How to get to Ait Ben Haddou:
As we did not have more than one day what we did was to look for a tour from Marrakech. There you will find a lot of agencies that offer this tour combined with Ouarzazate.
The excursion is a stick because in total we spent 5 hours going and other 5 of return from Ouarzazate, it is worth it if alone you count on a day, but the zone deserves to be seen with tranquility.
It is recommended to book your Morocco tour with local companies who have deep knowledge about the architecture, culture, and people. Our tour was with Touring In Morocco, and we had Hassan as a guide.
For those who have more time, you can rent a car and if you are several and do not want to go by bus you can negotiate with a cab driver, although this option is the most expensive.