Marrakech To Ait Benhaddou, Home of the Gladiator

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Marrakech To Ait Benhaddou: At about 190 kilometers south-east Marrakech, in Morocco, lies the beautiful village of Ait Benhaddou, also called “Ksar Ait Benhaddou”. The “Ksar” in berber language, which is the language of original inhabitants of North Africa means an assembly of fortified houses surrounded by a defensive wall, and a “Ksar” is usually situated at the bottom of a mountain, to make it even less penetrable and more impossible to be hit by a surprise back-attack.

A single fortified house is called a “Kasbah”. In each village, there is a main “Kasbah” home to the village leader, with four long towers to make surveillance easy. The alleys and doors of the Kasbahs are small, you might think it is because that the inhabitants are small people but it’s not. The small passages are a defensive strategy to prevent any planned and massive attacks, the enemy has to go through tight places making them vulnerable.

The real construction date of Ait Benhaddou is unknown, some say it dates back to the eleventh century but others think it is a more recent creation. What is sure, is that it is one of the most beautiful and well preserved ancient villages in Morocco.

Before roads and vehicles, Ait Benhaddou was a station for the caravanes traveling between southern Sahara and north Africa. They either exchange goods here and go back to the desert, or pause for a night and continue through the Ounila valley to Marrakech. The caravanes transported salt, silver and slaves among other things.

Today Ait benhaddou is a touristic attraction for two main reasons: one being the UNESCO declaring the village as a world heritage site. The second reason is because the film industry used the site to shoot scenes of ancient villages and ruins seen in movies. The most famous one is “The gladiator”, and the arena you see in the movie was built on the fields just in front of the village. Recently the crew of “Game of Thrones” also used the site to shoot scenes of the city of “Yunkai”.

The Ounila river separates the old preserved village and the new town, where most of the families currently live. Seven families still live in the old part, and you can enter one of the houses and have some mint tea for a dozen dirhams (Moroccan currency).

To reach the village, you need to get transportation either from Casablanca To Chefchaouen or Ouarzazate ( ~35km from the site). Many of the normal taxis offer this service, but you can also contact a travel agent to arrange your trip. Local guides are available if you want further guidance exploring the village and Many restaurants in the new village offer delicious meals at reasonable prices. The site offers a great opportunity for photographers to take some awesome shots and test their talent even though Morocco’s sun is a big help you don’t get in many places.

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