The beautiful Ait Benhaddou, is a small village made up of many small fortresses, kasbahs and each one extending 10 meters or more in air. These structures are made of primarily mud bricks and has been a major attraction for movie makers since it was first presented in the movie Lawrence of Arabia (1962). Ait Benhaddou is located along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech along the Ouarzazate River.
Established in the 11th century, Ait Benhaddou once commanded the surrounding area and served as a major stop for camel caravans carrying salt south across the Sahara and returning with ivory and gold. Although most of the villagers have relocated to the newer part of the town on the other side of the river, there are still few people who live in these fortresses. The buildings inside this complex include small castles, a mosque, houses, silos, stables and lofts. All these buildings are connected by a maze of narrow streets. Ait Benhaddou is most beautiful in the hours before the sun sets, when the Saharan sun lights up the red walls of the Kasbahs. You can walk through the Kasbahs and even reach the top of the hill where there is a fortified granary (agadir) from which you get stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Some people in Kasbahs sell local products and handicrafts.
Although the world's attention to this place was after the movies started to use this location, the buildings started to weaken especially in the 70's and needed restoration and maintenance. The Moroccan government soon realized the importance of protecting this site, in 1986, it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Unfortunately every year some portion gets damaged each rainstorm.
Recently movies like Alexander, Gladiator and The Mummy also used this location in their making. It is estimated that over hundred thousand tourists visit this each year, most of them come for day tours only.
How to get there:
Its best to get a private tour to this area or even better if you can hire a taxi to take you there. There is no public transport directly to Ait Benhaddou, buses can at the best drop you off about 5 km away from where you will have to wait to get a lift.
Where to eat:
There are few cafe's in the Kasbahs area of Ait Benhaddou.
There are more options in the newer part of town including Hotel la Baraka which has a restaurant with a nice courtyard.