Leaving the hustle and bustle and that blender that I call Marrakech, often a great itinerary for two weeks in Morocco takes you to the legendary desert. The journey from Marrakech is quite long, so it’s better to make a few stops. You cannot miss a gems like one I am going to portray to you: Ait Ben Haddou and Skoura. (read also: Skoura and its oasis)
These two Moroccan pearls can also be visited with a day trip from Marrakech. If you want to reach them you have to cross the 2000 meters of Tizi n Tichka and proceed towards Ouarzazate. To get to Skoura, you have to turn towards the road that leads to Thinghir before Ouarzazate.
You might be interested in: The real 7 Best things to do in Marrakech
Or maybe this one: Is it safe to travel to Morocco?
Ait Ben Haddou in Morocco: What is it? How to visit it?
Let me first tell you that Ait Ben Haddou is “UNESCO World Heritage“. You can easily understand that you are in a special place and of undeniable value. It’s a fortified city, called Ksar, which develops in height on the banks of the (dry) river Oued Ounilla.
Ksar is a fortified citadel, usually with a square or rectangular base, guarded by high walls. It is composed of common structures and a castle called Kasbah.
In Ait Ben Haddou the Berber architecture that distinguishes the buildings of the Moroccan valleys is noteworthy and stands out. The material used to build the houses, the barn, the walls and the kasbah itself is always a mixture of straw, stones and mud. Its colour is the classic one of the ground, after all it is made of mud.
The Ksar of Ait Ben Haddou is one of the most photographed areas of Morocco. It has been the setting for several films which, in addition to making it more famous, have helped to bring it back to life. Some parts have been rebuilt for filming.
How to get to Ait Ben Haddou
Coming from Marrakech, if you use the navigator, it will most likely tell you to turn off the main road into an anonymous road full of gravel and ups and downs. In fact, near the turn there is a boulder with the inscription “Ait Ben Haddou” and an arrow that points to the road. Actually, this is NOT the correct road.
You have to continue for another 5/6 km on the main road and then turn left at a roundabout. To reach Ait Ben Haddou and ts Kasbah you must always stay on the asphalt road. You do not need to use alternative roads.
After the turn, in a few minutes you will reach the place from where you can start your short walk to the Ksar. Here you will see many buses or minivans of local agencies that carry tourists around for visiting Ait Ben Haddou.
However, it is not clear where you can leave your car and where is the path to visit Ksar and Kasbah. Well, it’s pretty simple, just leave your car at the side of the road or stop to buy something at a market and ask if you can leave your car in front of the shop. They won’t mind.
How to visit Ait Ben Haddou and the Ksar
To access the walled city of Ait Ben Haddou, you must head in the direction of the riverbed. Arriving by car, the river will be on your right, beyond the buildings. You must park the car and continue on foot. All roads lead to the river bed, and in order to get to the walls you can:
- Walk across the dry river
- Cross the bridge that will lead you to one of the main entrances.
On the map you can see the dry river. You will come from “below”, you may park near “La Maison de Sable” where there is a big parking lot. From there, walk to the bridge which is easily recognizable on this map. The Ksar is on the other side of the bridge.
Once inside the citadel you will notice that it spreads uphill. There are not many alleys and among these narrow streets you will find more original and authentic craft shops than other places in Morocco. The visit of the whole city will take you about 30 minutes, 1 hour tops.
What to see inside the Ksar
Besides enjoying the uniqueness of Ait Ben Haddou, there are two things you must see:
- The view from the ruins of the barn, which is the highest point from which you can enjoy the view of the whole city and a splendid panorama, if there’s no mist.
- The visit to the Kasbah, which costs 10 dirham.
I visited Ait Ben Haddou in August. The heat is an element not to be overlooked. You cannot find shade unless you take shelter in the various shops, there is no vegetation and therefore you cannot protect yourself under any tree. It is something to be considered.