And so it was that we got up and left the city of Ouarzazate with it’s film studios and memories of films such as Gladiator, Lawrence of Arabia, Kundun, Kingdom of Haven and many more. We took the Tizi n Tichka road and soon enough felt hungry. Not even 20 km away we stopped on a petrol station to have some breakfast. Tagine! as you can imagine. Yummy, but we had to wait for it for ages.
First glimpse of ksar was unbelievable.
Sand stronghold in the middle of sand townhouses, all like it was part of the desert. Around strips of color, stains of green and towards the skyline whites of snow in Atlas mountains. Above it all clear, clear blue of the cloudless sky. First thought: ‘How beautiful’ Second: ‘How did they build it?’ Third thought: ‘Like town from Stargate’.
We got a little bit further and the ksar was suddenly mist over by new town where tourist business flourishes. We took a cobblestone street towards the wall and gates of Ait Ben Haddou where as you can imagine all shops are located. They all look lovely but we were in no mood for shopping. We felt impatient to see the ksar again. One of the men on our way was very persistent, he asked us to translate a letter he received from a customer from our country. He wanted us to drink tea and spend sometime with him but we were suddenly in a hurry. We did translate the letter in the end but “promised” maybe to buy something on our way back.
And there it was just in front of us on the other side of the river. River???? Yes about knee deep but still a river, locals will charge 10Dr to cross the river on a donkey (or let wellingtons), they probably removed the stepping stones to improve their business. Anyway we took off our shoes and crossed to the other side.
From the main gate we followed a labyrinth of stairs, houses, paths, roofs to get to the top. It felt amazing, like bieng kids in the playground. The light, sun and shadow everything was so picturesque. While inside it was dark and cool when you step outside to one of the roof is was bright and warm. It took some time for the eyes to adjust. I didn’t think about the people who used to live here years ago, what they did, if they were happy. I was more concentrated on finding out what was behind the next door, stairs, corner. We climbed up, up and up until finally reached the top of the rock. The view did not disappoint.
A couple of facts, you can find more on UNESCO web-site:
– the ksar, a group of earthen buildings surrounded by high walls, is a traditional pre-Saharan habitat;
– the oldest constructions do not appear to be earlier than the XVII century, although their structure and technique were propagated from a very early period in the valleys of southern Morocco
– the site was a trading post on the commercial route linking ancient Sudan to Marrakesh by the Dra Valley and the Tizi-n’Telouet Pass
– the communal areas include a mosque, a public square, grain threshing areas outside the ramparts, a fortification and a loft at the top of the village, an caravanserai, two cemeteries (Muslim and Jewish) and the Sanctuary of the Saint Sidi Ali or Amer
– the earthen buildings are very vulnerable due to lack of maintenance and regular repair resulting from the abandonment of the ksar by its inhabitants