Ksar of Ait Ben Haddou, Ouarzazate, Morocco
Aït Benhaddou is an ighrem, along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech in present-day Morocco. The ksar, a group of earthen buildings surrounded by high walls, is a traditional pre-Saharan habitat. The houses crowd together within the defensive walls, which are reinforced by corner towers. Ait-Ben-Haddou, in Ouarzazate province, is a striking example of the architecture of southern Morocco.
This Unesco-protected kasbah seems suspiciously frozen in time: with Hollywood touch-ups, it still resembles its days in the 11th century as an Almoravid caravanserai. Movie buffs may recognise this red mudbrick kasbah 32km from Ouarzazate from Lawrence of Arabia, Jesus of Nazareth (for which much of Aït Benhaddou was rebuilt), Jewel of the Nile (note the Egyptian towers) and Gladiator. If you’re headed to the desert, Aït Benhaddou is a worthy detour for a tasty lunch and kasbah stroll. From the Hôtel la Kasbah, head down past the souvenir stalls to the kasbah across the parched Oued Ounilla riverbed. But where are all the people? The few remaining residents make a few dirham providing access through their family homes to the kasbah. Climb the kasbah to a ruined agadir (fortified granary) with magnificent views of the surrounding palmeraie and unforgiving hammada (stony desert).