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Ait Ben Haddou

A fortified village stopped in time, for the enjoyment of travelers.

Ait Ben Haddou is one of the best places to imagine what life was like for the nomadic Berbers, dependent on the caravan routes in the area: its traditional adobe architecture is spectacular and the services offered here are up to the standards of the most demanding travelers. On this page we tell you everything you need to know if you want to visit this magical place, an almost obligatory stop on the route between Marrakech and the Sahara desert.

Table of Contents

Where is Ait Ben Haddou?

Ait Ben Haddou is a small fortified village (
), largely restored for tourism exploitation. Next to it there is a very small town where it is possible to find stores and other tourist-oriented businesses, and where there is a small community of inhabitants who, in many cases, work in these establishments. Others, on the other hand, are engaged in farming in the surrounding area.

At its feet runs a small stream, the Asif Ounila, which makes possible the existence of palm trees and a relatively fertile land, like an oasis. The construction of a pedestrian bridge at the beginning of the 21st century is trying to attract some families back to the ksar’s historic adobe dwellings, but for the time being only a handful of families live in them.

This ksar is located about 30 km from Ouarzazate, so it is a must for those staying in this pre-Saharan city. But it is also for those who are on their way to or returning from the Sahara, as it is located on the road that crosses the High Atlas through the Tizi n’ Tichka pass and leads to Marrakech.

How to get to Ait Ben Haddou?

To travel in the area you must come by private vehicle by road, as the train network does not reach here. There is a bus line that connects Marrakech with Ouarzazate, but it does not stop in Ait Ben Haddou, so from that city it will be necessary to take a cab. The same happens if you decide to come to Ouarzazate by plane, where the closest airport to this fortified town is located, with flights arriving from some Moroccan cities (Casablanca, Zagora) and some European cities, depending on the season.

Here you can check the distances between Ait Ben Haddou and other cities in Morocco:

  • Ouarzazate: 30 km
  • Port of Tizi n’Tichka: 70 km
  • Marrakech: 180 km
  • Essaouira: 390 km
  • Merzouga: 390 km
  • Casablanca: 420 km
  • Agadir: 340 km
  • Rabat: 500 km
  • Asilah: 710 km
  • Fez: 700 km
  • Tangier: 750 m
  • Chaouen: 750 km
  • Al Hoceima: 960 km
Ait Ben Haddou.

Ait Ben Haddou: history and context

It is difficult to establish the exact time of the foundation of Ait Ben Haddou, but it is most likely that it emerged as a fortified settlement at the time of the Almoravid expansion, in the eleventh century. The buildings that are still standing today can hardly be dated to that period, but they are undoubtedly reconstructions of successive centuries, made with the same techniques and in the same style as in medieval times.

The period of greatest splendor of Ait Ben Haddou occurred from the seventeenth century, when it was a major stop on one of the most important caravan routes in the Sahara, connecting Marrakech to Timbuktu, in present-day Mali, through the port of Tizi n’Tichka and the Draa Valley.

In the twentieth century, with the change of habits of society, this fortified village experienced an inexorable process of depopulation. Only tourism, agriculture and cinema have managed to save this jewel of traditional Berber architecture from ruin and disappearance.

Why travel to Ait Ben Haddou?

Ait Ben Haddou is a very small destination in southern Morocco, which you will insert in your roadmap only if you are sure about it. If you read the following reasons, you will have no doubt:

  1. It has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. What better recognition than that to demonstrate that this is a picturesque, unique and fascinating place? It won this award because of its relatively good state of preservation and also because it is one of the best examples of traditional Berber architecture.
  2. Passing between Marrakech and the desert. Many are the travelers who, to travel to the desert, take Marrakech as a reference. And on this route, the passage through Ait Ben Haddou is almost obligatory, at the foot of the southern slopes of the High Atlas.
  3. A very cinematographic village. The list of films and series that have been shot here is extensive (
    Game of Thrones
    Lawrence of Arabia
    Queen of the Desert
    …), because its huddled and crenellated farmhouse looks like a set… but it is real. This attractiveness as a film set is also helped by the presence in Ouarzazate of the country’s main film studios.
  4. Perfect for imagining the traditional way of life of the desert caravans and that of the small towns that served the passing merchants. To get into the role, you can taste local dishes, take a camel ride in the surroundings, learn about traditional handicrafts to understand what tools were used in everyday life, etc.
  5. A getaway of disconnection. Although during the day you will find a hustle and bustle of tourists, the activity in this town is greatly reduced when dusk arrives. Therefore, staying in one of the picturesque riads in the ksar or its surroundings can serve as an experience of relaxation and disconnection, with beautiful views of the surroundings and a pleasant peace at night.

What you can't miss in Ait Ben Haddou

Being a small fortified village, all the points of interest of Ait Ben Haddou are concentrated in the historic site and its immediate surroundings:

  • Kasbah: at the top of the mountain, from where you can enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the surroundings.
  • Main entrance to the ksar, authentic icon of the enclosure with its crenellated adobe towers, with geometric decoration as is traditional in the architecture of desert villages
  • Labyrinth of narrow streets of the village
  • Panoramic views across the Asif Ounila river: it is the ideal place to enjoy the view of the ksar and its kasbah.
What to do in Ait Ben Haddou.

Ait Ben Haddou for a premium traveler

Ait Ben Haddou is a popular destination for backpackers and free travelers, who organize their trip on a tight budget. But it can also be a place to enjoy with all kinds of amenities, focusing the experience on relaxation and in-depth knowledge of the local culture. Therefore, here are some ideas that we give you and that may come in handy if that is precisely what you are looking for:

Both Aït Ben Haddou and Ouarzazate are destinations known for their rich history and cultural heritage, being locations of several famous movies and series. Here is a list of some of the most luxurious hotels in these areas:

Hotels in Ouarzazate:

  1. Berbère Palace: A luxurious hotel with lush gardens and a stunning swimming pool.
  2. Le Temple Des Arts: This is a themed boutique hotel with rooms inspired by famous movies.
  3. Hotel Ksar Ighnda: At the gates of the desert, this hotel combines modern luxury with local tradition.

Hotels in Ait Ben Haddou:

  1. Kasbah Tebi: A traditional establishment with an authentic Berber flavor.
  2. Riad Caravane: It is known for its cozy atmosphere and its beautiful terrace overlooking the Ksar of Aït Ben Haddou.
  3. Dar Mouna: This riad offers a panoramic view of the city and has a nice swimming pool.
  4. Kasbah du Peintre: Set in a desert landscape, this hotel combines tradition with comfort.

And if you do not want to fail in the choice of your exclusive services in Ait Ben Haddou, we recommend you to contact Chic Morocco. Our agency knows this unique destination inside out and we can provide you with tailor-made and quality services to make your experience as enriching and comfortable as possible. In addition, all this will be continued in the rest of the trip we organize for you.

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