Ksar of Ait Ben-Haddou – UNESCO World Heritage Site

It is believed that the town of Ait-Ben-Haddou was established in 757 and its founder, Ben-Haddou, still lies buried in his tomb behind this spectacular city. Most of the original inhabitants of the Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou have moved across the river to more modern homes. The river can be crossed by jumping the stepping stones, and some residents of the new village have small stores within the Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou, selling artifacts and other souvenirs to tourists.

The word ‘Ksar’ refers to a large group of kasbas (homes) that are built close together and which are located behind the fortified walls of a city. Ait-Ben-Haddou is an earthen city that is constructed from clay bricks and has thick defensive walls protecting the interior. The corner towers reinforce the defenses and stand high above the walls, casting an intimidating shadow against the skyline. Ait-Ben-Haddou was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Morocco in 1987. Interestingly, this site has a very strong bond with Hollywood. David Lean chose Ait-Ben-Haddou as the perfect location for his movie, ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, in the year 1962. On closer inspection, Lean discovered that the buildings were starting to fall into disrepair and so he quickly set about restoring some of the unique homes. Due to continuous restoration work and the recognition of the importance of this site, the front half of this amazing site is in very good condition. Unfortunately there are buildings situated near the back of the city that are still in desperate need of attention.

Other famous movies that have been filmed here include ‘The Jewel of the Nile’ in 1985, ‘The Living Daylights’ in 1987, ‘Kundun’ in 1994, ‘The Mummy’ in 1999 and more recently ‘Gladiator’ was filmed here in 2000 and ‘Alexander’ in 2004. Visitors to the site are not only astonished at the historical beauty and uniqueness of this World Heritage Site in Morocco, but many find themselves in awe of the fact that they can walk the same streets as some of their favorite movie stars once did.

This once important city, on the caravan route between the Sahara Desert and the city of Marrakech, has become a significant historical site and a popular tourist destination. Visitors will also be able to enjoy a good meal and refreshments in the new village across the river. The surrounding landscape is breathtaking and every minute spent here is worth it, with a photographic opportunity waiting around every corner.

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