Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Ait Ben Haddou

by Regin Reyno

Tuyok
Day 17
November 24, 2019
9th leg: Marrakech, Morocco

The early morning temperature in Morocco was so cold. Good thing the van was very comfortable. Together with other travelers, we were on our way to Ait Ben Haddou: an ancient ksar, or fortified village from Marrarech. The drive was very scenic. We passed by beautiful mountains, wonderful rock formations, amazing desert views. A stop-over at a cafe overlooking the mountains allowed us to warm ourselves with Moroccan mint tea by the fireplace. It was winter in Morocco, hence the cold morning. 

After a long travel along mountainous zigzag road, where the driving was so fast and scary, we’ve reached Ait Ben Haddou.

I was excited and happy to finally be at this ancient fortified village made of pounded earth. It used to be a very rich village, as it was along the caravan route from ancient Sudan or the Sahara desert going to Marrarech in Morocco. I was built during the 17th century A.D. It is a UNESCO World Heritage SIte. 

As we were approaching Ait Ben Haddou, our guide, Mohammed, kept on talking, giving us valuable information. From a distance we finally saw the village. As my other companions were snapping photos and posing, I just stared at it for some time, admiring its splendor from a distance and imagining the life of the people back then; people who live in the desert. 

It is also a set for many movies: Babel, Gladiator, Game of Thrones, and James Bond’s Living Daylights to name a few. Its preserved buildings makes it an ideal set for movies. 

Upon entering, Mohammed told us that in the olden times, there’s a specific time when they close the gate at night. And once it’s closed and you are still outside, they won’t open it for you, so you have to sleep outside and wait for it to be open the next day. This is because a lot of bandits are trying to attack or steal something from ksars such as this.

Filming location of James Bond's Living Daylights
As I was touching the walls, I can’t help but admire at the creativity and resourcefulness of the Berbers-the ethnic group of people who live in this part of the world. It is just made of mud or pounded earth. No bricks, no concrete, or anything like that; just pure mud and straw.

Mohammed told us that, during rainy nights, you can’t sleep well, as you know that your roof is just made of mud and might collapse. He showed me some parts where it already collapsed due to the elements and time. 

We roamed at almost every part of the ksar till we reached the top. The view was amazing. You can see the wonderful desert landscape and the Altai mountains. Ourzazate, the city where this ksar is located is actually known as the gateway to the Sahara desert. 



After touring Ait Ben Haddou, we then proceeded to the city of Ourzazate and saw the film studio. Then, we had a wonderful lunch at one of the restaurants with a view of the other kasbah that we also visited. Our lunch time was fun. I was able to connect with other tourists while enjoying a Moroccan lunch.

couscous 

I’m really happy and fulfilled to be able to visit this kinds of places and infrastructures where people adapt to their environment to be able to have a happy, quality life that we all desire.





This is part of  Tuyok



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