Ait Ben Haddou & Skoura: two Moroccan pearls

Ait Ben Haddou & Skoura: two Moroccan pearls

Ait Ben Haddou: What is it? How to get there and visit it?

I start by telling you that Ait BenHaddou is "UNESCO heritage“, You can understand that you are in a particular and undoubtedly interesting place. It is a fortified city, properly called Ksar, which develops in height on the banks of the (dry) river Oued Ounilla.

Ait Ben Haddou & Skoura: two Moroccan pearls

The Ksar is there fortified citadel, usually with a square or rectangular base, protected by high walls. It is composed of popular structures and a castle called Kasbah.

In Ait Ben Haddou the Berber architecture that distinguishes the buildings of the Moroccan valleys is noticeable and evident. The material used to build the houses, the granary, the walls and the kasbah itself is always a mixture of straw, stones and mud. The color is the classic one of the earth, after all it is earth.

The Ksar of Ait Ben Haddou is one of the most photographed areas in Morocco. It has been the scene of several films which, in addition to making it more famous, have helped to restore its splendor. Some parts have in fact been rebuilt for filming.

Ait Ben Haddou & Skoura: two Moroccan pearls

How to reach Ait Ben Haddou?

Coming from Marrakech, if you use the navigator it will most likely tell you to turn from the main road into an anonymous road full of gravel and ups and downs. In fact, near the turning there is a boulder with the words “Ait Ben Haddou” and an arrow indicating the road. Actually this They will NOT stay at your feet. is the correct way.

You have to continue another 5/6 km on the main road and then turn left at a roundabout. To reach Ait Ben Haddou you must always stay on an asphalted road, there is no need to use alternative roads.

After the turning, in a few minutes you will reach the place from which you leave for the short walk that leads to the Ksar. Here you will see numerous buses or minivans of local agencies that take tourists visiting Ait Ben Haddou.

However, it is not clear where you can leave your car and where is the way to visit the Ksar. Well, it's very simple, just leave the car on the side of the road or stop for something in a market and ask if it is possible to leave the car in front of the store. They won't make a fuss.

How to visit Ait Ben Haddou?

To access the fortified city of Ait Ben Haddou, you have to move to the river bed. Arriving by car, you will have the river on your right, beyond the buildings. You must therefore park and continue on foot. All roads lead to the river bed and to get to the walls you can:

  • Fording the river on foot
  • Cross the bridge which takes you to one of the main entrances.

On the map you can see the dry river. You will come from "below", you can park near "La Maison de Sable" where there is a large parking lot. From there proceed on foot towards the bridge which is clearly visible on this map. The Ksar develops on the other side of the bridge.

Once inside the citadel you will notice that it develops uphill. The alleys are not many and among these alleys you can find more original and authentic craft shops than in other places in Morocco. The visit of the whole city will take you about 30 minutes, maximum 1 hour.

In addition to savoring the uniqueness of Ait Ben Haddou, there are two things you must see:

  • The view from the ruins of the granary, which is the highest point from which you have a view over the whole city and a splendid panorama, mist permitting.
  • The visit to the Kasbah, cost 10 dirhams.

I visited Ait Ben Haddou in August. Heat is a component that should not be underestimated. There is no shade unless you take refuge in the various shops, there is no vegetation and therefore you cannot shelter under any tree. This is something to keep in mind.

Ait Ben Haddou & Skoura: two Moroccan pearls

Skoura and its Oasis

Continuing towards the Dades valleys (and then towards the Gorges of the Dades and Todra) you meet this town which in itself has nothing special except that part of Skoura it is a natural oasis.

I discovered this little piece of Moroccan paradise thanks to Reda, the manager of the hotel where I stayed, namely theEspace Kasbah Amridil  (I absolutely recommend you to sleep there one night) Exactly, right in part at Kasbah Amridil, a fantastic place to sleep and where in the evening you will feel like you are in a movie of a thousand and one nights.

Ait Ben Haddou & Skoura: two Moroccan pearls

The hotel is on the doorstep of what is called theSkoura Oasis.

This area is served by three rivers, once they were full of water and the vegetation was even more dense. Now, however, there is just no water and the river bed is completely dry, so much so that you can clearly see the off-road tracks that join the various parts of the Oasis. Reda accompanied me for a panoramic tour and explained some things such as that all their livelihood is due to local production. Sometimes the products are exchanged, whoever has a plant product exchanges it for an animal one. Life flows slowly and follows the rhythms of nature.

And it follows them so much that, paradoxically, when it is a period of heavy rain the great rivers that embrace the oasis of Skoura fill up and crossing them is practically impossible until the level of the river decreases. There Kasbah Amridil area, like other parts of the oasis, is isolated from the rest of the country for days on end.

In 2017 this situation seems from another world and instead it is just like that.

Ait Ben Haddou & Skoura: two Moroccan pearls

Visit the Kasbah Amridil is one of the things to put inside a itinerary for a trip to Morocco, is a very structured and interesting kasbah. Just think that until recently it was the background of the 50 dirham note.

If you are staying in the Espace Kasbah Amridil remember to ask Reda to accompany you to the oasis. It will be a very pleasant ride and you will discover something more about the life of Moroccans which is clearly not the same as the inhabitants of Marrakech.

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