The Aït-ben-Haddou ksar in Morocco
The Aït-ben-Haddou ksar in Morocco: Aït-ben-Haddou (or Aït Benhaddou) is a small Moroccan town in the province of Ouarzazate, 190 km from Marrakech.
It’s a town of traditional southern Moroccan architecture on the edge of the High Atlas Mountains. It is made up of a series of mud-brick buildings, and contrary to what you may sometimes read or hear, it is not a Kasbah, but a Ksar (fortified village). It is on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
The village of Aït-ben-Haddou is most famous for having been used as a backdrop in numerous films, most often as a replacement for Jerusalem. It has appeared in a dozen films, including Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.
What to see in Aït-ben-Haddou?
The Aït-ben-Haddou ksar in Morocco: Aït-ben-Haddou as a whole is well worth a long look. The sunlight on the fortified village offers superb colors, a feast for the eye. The ksar is built into the side of a hill, making the spectacle even more beautiful. Inside, it’s like visiting an open-air museum! Entrance to the fortress is free of charge, so don’t let anyone who wants to charge you anything to let you into their home.
The collective granary (agadir) at the top of the hill is impressive and well worth climbing to. Just watch out for the little “contractors” who want to help you get upstairs into the attic. They’ll wait until your back is turned to remove the makeshift staircase you used to climb up, and “demand” a bribe in return to let you back down…
Don’t miss the Ben-Haddou mausoleum at the foot of the hill on the other side of town.
Before you arrive, but also once you’ve reached the top of the village, enjoy the incredible views over the region.
How do I get to Aït-ben-Haddou from Marrakech?
The ksar of Aït-ben-Haddou lies 33 km north of Ouarzazate and 190 km south of Marrakech. Contrary to what is indicated on the map below, it’s not a 2h30 drive from Marrakech, but rather a 4h drive. It all depends on which bus you take or, if you rent a car, how fast you drive.
Buses don’t go directly to Aït Benhaddou but can drop you off at the junction (between the N9 and the P1506) about 7 km from your destination. At this point, you’ll usually find several cabs waiting. A seat will cost you around 10 dirhams (€0.90). The whole cab costs 60 dirhams (€5.30).
If you’re driving, you’ll need to take Route Nationale 9 from Marrakech, turning off at the junction with Route P1506.
If you want to get there in a single day from Marrakech, it’s best to do so with a specialized agency. You’ll also need to bear in mind that you’ll be spending almost 8 hours each way in transport, which can be very tiring. If you want to take your time, it’s best to sleep in.
Sleeping in Aït-ben-Haddou
The Aït-ben-Haddou ksar in Morocco: The Aït-ben-Haddou ksar in Morocco: You can sleep in one of the village’s inns. Most of the hotels/inns in Aït-ben-Haddou have a restaurant where you can sample Berber specialties. To find a hotel in Aït-ben-Haddou, look for it in this list.
You can also take advantage of your stay in Aït-ben-Haddou to continue in the direction of Ouarzazate and spend the night in Ouarzazate.
We tested it for you: a night in the Sahara desert
Who hasn’t dreamed of falling asleep under the stars and waking up in the company of camels? Here’s the story of a breathtaking journey into the heart of the Moroccan desert, between Zagora and Merzouga.
From Marrakech, it’s a long way to the desert. By car, it takes a full day to get to Zagora and not miss the sunset. Fortunately, the road is beautiful and offers a breathtaking variety of landscapes. Between snow-capped mountains, red rocks, palm groves and oases, time flies.
Along the way, young and old alike will be delighted to hold a chameleon and a baby iguana in their hands. Not to be missed: the Berber village of Agdez and the Draa valley with its procession of palm trees.
Around 5pm, as the sun begins its descent, the 4×4s are replaced by camels. In around forty minutes, the gentle – and sometimes grumpy – animals with their swaying gait bring visitors to their destination in peaceful silence.
In luxurious tents, mint tea and royal couscous await guests. This is followed by musical entertainment: to the rhythm of Tam-tam and Berber folk songs, the starry night is animated. Later, with only the stars to illuminate the camp, the total silence may surprise many accustomed to the lights and noise of the city.
The Atlas Studios in Ourzazate
On the way back, a stopover in Ouarzazate is a must. Nicknamed “the gateway to the desert”, the town is home to the film studios that are the city’s emblem. As the filming location for Game Of Thrones, visitors will be able to take a walk through the larger-than-life sets, like budding actors.
From Ali Baba and the 40 Thieves to Gladiator and Prince of Persia, Atlas Studios has contributed to many famous films, some of whose sets and costumes can be admired on a guided tour of the studios-museum.
Buddhist statues, Egyptian boats and fake Ferraris: all the elements are brought together to guarantee total immersion in the cinematic universe. Does this famous shot sound familiar?
Another little nugget not to be missed is the tiny fortified village of Ait-Ben-Haddou, in the Ounila valley. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this famous, typical filming location offers a glimpse of traditional Morocco.
Merzouga and its endless sand dunes
The Aït-ben-Haddou ksar in Morocco: Sand as far as the eye can see. Immensity. A breathtaking spectacle. An experience that only those staying a week or more can afford. It takes 3 days and 2 nights to reach Merzouga, a small Saharan village 50 km from the Algerian border.
The silence here is astonishing. Only the sounds of Berber music can disturb this ambient calm, guaranteeing a cure for tranquillity.