Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Aït Benhaddou

It was amazing what crazy things you can find in the desert.

Due to its relatively stable government and somewhat friendly attitude to outsiders, they have a booming film industry here. There are a couple big LA-style studios in Ouarzazate, and the nearby village of Aït Benhaddou is a backdrop for many a celluloid scene.


What was once a stopping point for traders on their way over the mountains to Marrakech is now a Unesco site, and the houses and walls and fortifications of the ksar are all made of mud. On close inspection, you can see bits of straw and pebbles in the bricks, but the structures are solid and they stay nice and cool inside. It rains rarely on this side of the Atlas, and when it does it causes the structures to melt a bit, so slapping another layer of mud bricks is akin to freshening up the facade. The town is frequently used in films as a stand-in for old Jerusalem, and it's featured in movies such as Gladiator and Lawrence of Arabia.

There are lots of mud brick villages in this area, but this one is by far the best preserved and most picturesque, with the red cliffs and high Atlas in the background.

Morocco Morocco Morocco

Ouarzazate also had a really beautiful old ruined Kasba in the center of town.

Morocco Morocco

Most of the official tourist sites we went to in all of Morocco would be vague on the informational aspect. No pamphlet or signs or historical explanations or self-guided tours. You could usually hire a guide at the entrance of each attraction for a few bucks, but there were always plenty of faux guides hanging out there as well. The guys (never women) with badges were more or less official guides and as long as you gave them a time frame, they would give you a pretty good summary of the place. Aside from the badges, the telling the faux guides apart was easy as they were intent on turning your attentions to the carpet-seller set up next door.

Morocco Morocco Morocco Morocco Morocco

It was off the the "Valley of the Roses" next, which in winter is empty of roses as the bushes are rather dead looking with nary a rose on them, but you can buy a lot of rose-themed cosmetics year-round.

Tomorrow: the Gorges.

No comments:

Post a Comment