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