Located in the Moroccan Atlas, the ksar Ait Ben Haddou is an old fortified village on the UNESCO world heritage list. It is located just under 4 hours from Marrakech on the way to Ouarzazate. I had rented a car in Marrakech and took the opportunity to visit the area: a scenic route near the chain of the High Atlas Mountains
A ksar is a group of dwellings surrounded by defensive walls. Inside, there are modest traditional houses but also small forts (with towers). The oldest constructions are no older than the 17th century. The ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1987.
The fortified village is a great example of the architecture of southern Morocco and pre-Saharan. Inside the Ksar are houses, a mosque, a public square, pretty little streets, a sanctuary and even two cemeteries.
I have great memories of Ait Ben Haddou. During my visit, the site was almost empty. In the late afternoon, the colours of the sunlight on the buildings contrasted sharply with the greenery.
To have more freedom, I rented a car from Marrakech. I had no issue driving on Moroccan roads. The car was a perfect way to explore the region.
Just before entering the village, make sure you stop along the road: there is a great view of the entire ksar.
Hollywood at the gates of the desert
About thirty kilometres away are the Atlas Studios in Ouarzazate, Moroccan Hollywood. Ait Ben Haddou has been the backdrop for many productions: Gladiator, Babel, Prince of Persia as well as Asterix and Obelix mission Cleopatra.
The village was also used as the backdrop for Game of Throne. Not as famous as other locations like Northern Ireland or Dubrovnik, Ait Ben Haddou represented the city of Yunkai. Since the success of the TV show, you can imagine that the village has become much more touristy!
You need to be patient if you want to reach Aït Ben Haddou by public transport. The village is accessible from both Ouarzazate and Marrakech. But the easiest by far is to rent a car. I wouldn’t recommend going on a tour because the road is scenic and it would be a shame not to stop for photo breaks!
Allow one to two hours to visit the site.