Ait Ben Haddou and Ouarzazate

(12 Hours)


Overview

Poppies on the Tiz n’Tichka pass

A visit to the UNESCO world heritage site of Ait Ben Haddou is a full day´s trip and requires an early start. But it’s worth every minute of foregoing a leisurely breakfast. Starting at about 8am, the trip offers a marvellous insight into the diversity of rural Morocco. Whilst the journey is quite long, it is never dull, as you will be mesmerised by the continual changing scenery. And like all our trips you are welcome to stop at anytime, not just at the main tourist sites, but also at the many superb photo opportunities en route.

About 45 minutes after departing Marrakech the road slowly winds its way up the High Atlas, the fertile foothills being the perfect location for growing olives and wheat and grass for the goats. This is rural Morocco – gentle, pastoral and delightfully calm. Soon the view changes to one of dramatic, deeply carved valleys dotted with villages clinging precariously to the edge. At 2260 meters you cross the Tiz n’Tichka pass, taking a sharp left turn off the main highway, and descend on the road to the Kasbah of Telouet.

High Atlas village

Kasbah of Telouet

The Kasbah of Telouet is probably worth the trip in its own right. Constructed by Glaoui in the 19th century, the interior reveals the wealth of his family, being adorned with luxuriant stucco and zeillij (tiles) work, and ornately carved wooden ceilings. The property is basically left open to the elements, and without funding and preservation will eventually collapse (the exterior walls collapsed in the great flood in 2016). This in some ways that just adds to the drama of the spectacle. As for Glaoui, his history is as interesting as the Kasbah. Being located on the caravan route between Marrakech and the Sahara, his clan were wealthy warlords thanks to the trade in salt and gold. His control over the area was further augmented through collaboration with the colonial French. However he fell on his own sword when the French were removed from Morocco and the power reverted to the king and constitutional Morocco.

The road from Telouet to Ait Ben Haddou passes through one of the most dramatic and inspiring valleys in Morocco, the Ounila Valley.  The road was only paved 6 years ago, but it still feels as if you have stepped back in time to a simple bygone era.  The contrast between the stark arid mountains, Berber villages and crumbling kasbahs, and the verdantly green valley floor is spectacular, especially in the winter months when the sun is lower in the sky.  After about one hour you reach the world Heritage Kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou, which is probably the best example of an earthen clay fortified village (ksar) in Morocco. The Kasbah itself is a maze of narrow alleys slowly winding their way up to a lovely view from the top. Several families still live in the Kasbah.  The best view of the Kasbah is from a promontory on the road, where one can obtain a better idea of its impressive location, dimensions and construction.

A musician in the Kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou

The breathtaking view from top of the Tiz n’Tichka pass

After a full day we recommend taking the main highway back to Marrakech. You can also choose, provided you have the time available, to visit Ouarzazate, a further 30 minutes from Ait Ben Haddou. It is principally an administrative centre, although it does have an interesting Kasbah and two film studios. Ait Ben Haddou itself has been used as the setting for many epic films and also the production Game of Thrones. The film studios house some of the props. But these studios are really only of interest to film buffs –they are not quite yet competition for Hollywood Studios!

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