It is miles from anywhere and quite a trek to reach, so one has to ask: is it worth visiting Ait Ben Haddou? The short answer is yes. Make the trip!
We visited Ait Ben Haddou as part of a trip through Morocco, but it is possible to take a day trip from places like Marrakech.
What is Ksar Ait Ben Haddou?
Ksar Ait Ben Haddou is a village in the High Atlas Mountains. It is a World Heritage Site and has been since 1987. A Ksar is a fortified village and Ksar Ait Ben Haddou has been around since the 17th Century. It is a fine example of southern Moroccan architecture. The fortified structures are made of mud, straw and wood, giving the village beautiful, earthen tones. Many of the buildings are also decorated with motifs, etched into the walls. The whole effect is quite wonderful.
Originally, the ksar was an important hub for trade, a strategic point on the caravan trails between Sudan and Marrakech.
Very few people still live in the actual ksar, although when we visited it was quite lively with shops, stalls and artists. Most of the inhabitants now live on the other side of the Ounila River in the modern village of Ait Ben Haddou. (Note that the term “ksar” is not used in the title of the more modern village). This village is also very picturesque and many of the buildings have been built in the style of the original ksar. We stayed in a kasbah in this more modern village. I snapped the pic below of Beth just outside our hotel, overlooking Ksar Ait Ben Haddou.
Which movies have been filmed in Ksar Ait Ben Haddou?
Ksar Ait Ben Haddou, understandably, has formed the backdrop to many films over the years and the people who live there are proud of this. Consequently, there are several posters and reference points throughout the ksar listing the various movies which have been filmed here. These include Lawrence of Arabia, The Jewel of the Nile, The Mummy, Gladiator and Game of Thrones. Since Ksar Ait Ben Haddou became a World Heritage Site, any structures made by the film crew have to be removed.
Our tour of Ksar Ait Ben Haddou
We arrived in Ait Ben Haddou just as night was falling and spent the night in the Hotel La Kasbah in the modern village. The hotel was built in the style of the ksar and featured lots of narrow corridors and all kinds of nooks and crannies.
We met with our guide the following morning and he escorted us through the village to the river bed of the Ounila River. The river was dry and had been for many months, but one could see the ancient stepping stones that had once been used to cross the river.
As it was, we just walked across the dry river bed to the ksar. Even if the river had been in full flow, however, we would not have required the stepping stones as there is now a modern bridge connecting the two villages.
Our guide, a native of the village, was knowledgeable and informative as he led us through the ksar. He pointed out that we would only see the word “Ksar” for the original Ait Ben Haddou. This was the sign as we entered.
What is there to see in Ait Ben Haddou?
The guide led us through narrow streets and alleyways, up rough-hewn steps and between houses. Some of the houses we could look into and see the construction. Most of the houses were quite modest, but there were also several rather grand kasbahs.
As we wandered through the village, we also saw several street artists at work. We were particularly impressed by some of the painters and the techniques they used of caramelising sugar to create the colours. In addition, numerous shops and stalls were open for business selling a variety of mementos.
We gradually made our way upwards to the fortified granary (agadir) at the very top of the hill. The steps and paths are quite rough in places so I would suggest wearing strong shoes for this.
The granary itself was in a state of ruin and apparently had been further damaged by the earthquake in September 2023. Our guide advised us to stay well clear of it.
The view over Ksar Ait Ben Haddou and of the surrounding country side from here was spectacular.
We could also clearly see the two villages, separated by the river, the ksar and the modern Ait Ben Haddou, from this vantage point. People were crossing the river bed from one side to the other, just as we had done a little earlier.
Final thoughts: Is Ait Ben Haddou worth visiting?
We really enjoyed visiting Ksar Ait Ben Haddou and learned a lot about Moroccan history. The village is really beautiful and like nothing we have seen elsewhere. This makes it really special and for this reason alone, Ait Ben Haddou is worth visiting. Being honest, I also loved walking in the place where all those films were made!
Disclosure: this post may contain affiliate links. This means that if you purchase something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission. Please note that there is no extra cost to you associated with this and no detriment to you or your booking. Thank you for supporting this site.
Our Tour of Morocco
Our tour through Morocco included visits to Marrakech, Casablanca, Rabat and the ancient Roman city of Volubilis. We wandered through the souks in Fez and explored the wonderful Berber village of Ait Benhaddou, the setting for many Hollywood movies. In addition, we visited palaces, mosques, museums, film studios and several artisan workshops (- carpets, metal artefacts, argon oil and even a UNESCO listed tannery!).
There were eight of us in the group for most of the tour. Beth and I flew into Marrakech and the others joined us the following day after we arrived in Casablanca. We travelled in a comfortable mini bus and our driver was very competent. The driver and a host stayed with us for the whole trip, but we had private guides in each of places we visited. Two more people joined us for the final tour of Marrakech. The trip ended in Marrakech.
The hotels we stayed in were all clean and comfortable. Most had spas and pools. Camping in the Sahara Desert and the camel trek were included.
We booked the tour with TourRadar: Imperial Cities and Sahara Discovery Tour from Marrakech
If you found this post useful, please share!
Thinking of taking a trip?
Check out these Black Friday Deals with TourRadar!
Up to 70% off some trips!
This one to Morocco currently has a 60% Black Friday discount! 15 Day Highlights of Morocco and Egypt
What about Cusco & Salkantay Trekking to Machu Picchu for instance? Reduced from £1520 to £684!
There are lots more deals to be had so pop in before they are gone.