We’ve seen a great picture of Ait Ben Haddu at dawn in one of our books about Morrocco, so we’re up early to try and catch the sunrise on this famous Kasbah. We drive into town and park by the side of the road. Ait Ben Haddu has two parts; the ‘modern’ part by the side of the road, at this time of the morning a quiet village with dirt streets and mud-walled houses; and the old Kasbah which you can reach across a little pedestrian bridge or via stepping stones in the river.
We are early enough to have the Kasbah almost completely to ourselves. We climb through the narrow streets all the way to the top from where you have a fabulous 360degree view.
By the time we go back down, the village has woken up, some tourist shops have opened and the first groups of japanese or chinese tourists are coming up the narrow lanes.
We meet Mohamed who owns an old troglodyte house, which he has opened for tourists. Ait Ben Haddu has often been used as a filming location (there are some famous film studios just outside Ouzarzate too), and Mohamed has been an extra in quite a number of them. His house was also occasionally used – there is a cave-like room that was the filming location for a prison (can’t remember which film) as well as a wedding in Game of Thrones . Note the amount of items on the shelves, many of which have been film props!
In the heart of the house, we are astounded to find a tiny animal enclosure.
Mohamed entertains us royally, offering Berber tea and telling us many little details of his culture, for example the pegs on his keyring symbolising the members of the family, and how pegs get removed when someone dies.
We wend our way back through the streets of the Kasbah, past some very convincing sellers but we don’t have any money with us, so we are immune. When they suggest barter, we tell them about our bartering experience at the pottery in Tamegroute and explain that for us, bartering with a Morrocan is like a beginner trying to beat the master. We have no chance, even if the experience is educative. They laugh and let us go.
Frank gets sucked into an antiques shop where he gets offered an ancient compass, with various different metal discs full of star signs and other symbols. Apparently it will safely guide you through the desert and of course the vendor thinks it’s indispensable for us and much safer than GPS, which may fail you somewhere far away. A minor obstacle being not understanding any of the symbols on the instrument!
Many more pictures of Ait Ben Haddu are to be found here
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