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Aït Ben Haddou

Aït Ben Haddou

Thanks to serving as Hollywood backdrop for blockbuster films like Lawrence of Arabia, Jesus of Nazareth, Jewel of the Nile, and Gladiator, the UNESCO-protected red mud-brick ksar (fortified city) thirty-two kilometers from Ouarzazate, Aït Ben Haddou, still resembles its eleventh-century incarnation as a popular caravanserai (caravan resting place) from the Almoravid dynasty.  Situated in Souss Massa Draa on a hill along the Ouarzazate River, the lower part of the village has been largely rebuilt for filming purposes.  The kasbah’s crenellated towers and dark red walls sport blind arches and geometric designs, and the view of the landscape are breath-taking.  Be sure to wind your way through the twisting lanes up to a ruined agadir (fortified granary) with spectacular views of the surrounding palmeraie (palm grove) and hammada (stony desert).

Six kilometers to the north of Aït Ben Haddou stands the Tamdaght kasbah, a crumbling Glaoui fortification topped by storks’ nests.  The lush terraced gardens and striking desert scenery feature prominently in films such as Gladiator and Alexander the Great.

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