Near Ouarzazate, known within country as the Moroccan Hollywood, within the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains, lies an old fortified city called Ait Ben Haddou. The name, roughly translated, means “the clan of the son of Haddou.”
Lying at the southern foothills of the High Atlas Mountains and being proximal to trade routes, including access to Marrakech just over the Tizi N’Tichka Pass, the village was an important stopping point for traders for many centuries. Nowadays, however, it is far from the beaten path and is mostly a tourist destination.
The older part of the city rests on the southern slope of a small hill, atop which used to be the town’s granary and fortified walls, “agadir,” for defense of the town. There are several larger homes, kasbahs, near the occasional river, but much of the town is made up of smaller dwellings. Because of its historical importance and relatively good condition, it was made a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1987. The newer part of the city, including shops, restaurants, and lodging, lies across the river and there is a footbridge connecting the two.
Some original families remain, but much of the space has been changed over in order to cater to tourism. There are many gift shops and a few artists plying their craft. The video below was sponsored by UNESCO. It provides a nice overview of its history.
My trip there was for a day long outing with other Peace Corps volunteers taking a break from our language training in Ouarzazate. I enjoyed the village, though its transformation from thriving community to tourist destination was disappointing, albeit predictable. The views of the surrounding landscapes are gorgeous as is the sight of the city itself. It’s certainly worth a trip to see.
Below are some photos I took of the trip.