Souvenirs from Morocco, Marrakech
The Kasbah de Ait Benhaddou is one of the oldest towns in Morocco located less than 200 km away from Marrakech near the beautiful Atlas Mountains. It looks like a fairy tale Arabian city with wall fortifications and large gates which protect its many buildings of stone and clay. This magical city often used as an image for Jerusalem in many Hollywood films is seen as a gate to the Sahara desert. It’s a combination of mountains, sands and valleys with breathtaking sunsets and it is listed as one of UNESCO’s Heritage Sites. Its history was shaped by one of the old commercial routes bringing slaves, precious metals, ivory and salt from Sahara to Marrakech. Visit this magnificent place of Moroccan charm and marvel at its shapes, colors and flavors; a resin fridge magnet available now online is a lovely souvenir of its unconventional beauty.
Kasbah Ait Benhaddou, a Gate to Sahara
The town is located 30 km away from Ouarzazate in Souss-Massa-Draâ on the Ouarzazate River and its notoriety was given by the Oscar winning Lawrence of Arabia filmed here in 1962. It is also an ideal starting point for discovering the natural beauties of Southern Morocco with old Kasbahs, the Oasis of Fint, the Valley of Dadès and the Dunes of Tinfo. Ait Benhaddou was renovated for the filming of Jesus of Nazareth and recently through complex UNESCO projects. It is typical for old-fashioned ksars, traditional Berber houses made of mud with Kasbahs walls, beautifully decorated arches, elegant towers and red constructions. Currently only a few families live within the ksar but the place was an important commercial strategic point on the route from sub-Saharan regions to Marrakech through the passes of Dra Valley and Tizi-n'Telouet. There is also a visible community space with a mosque, a public square, cemeteries, fortifications and the Sanctuary of Saint Sidi Ali.
A Splendid Moroccan Architecture
The town is a superb example of Moroccan style and pre-Saharan architecture and it displays a charming mixture of modest mud houses and little castles with towers and elegantly decorated clay bricks. The structures are surrounded by protective walls with gates and towers in traditional Moroccan fashion. The oldest building in Ait-Ben-Haddou dates back to the 17th century and it is a typical representation of a traditional ksar from the Southern parts of Morocco and an exemplification of earthen architectural style. Ait-Ben-Haddou is one of the few places to have kept authentic Moroccan features of dwelling and construction techniques which are adapted to the specific climate environment. Ever since it was listed as an UNESCO Heritage Site, there have been consistent efforts to restore the venue’s old heritage with construction materials limited to earth and wood.
The Heritage of Islamic Art
Some researchers believe that the constructions could date back as far as the Islamic period from the 7th century with several types of houses representative for the culture of South Morocco: the tighremt, a house of big dimensions erected around a rectangular courtyard with angle towers; the kasba which was the residence of aristocrats or a fortress for local rulers with the ground floor used for storing goods; the ksar, a collection of houses inside protective walls, towers and a gate, which range from modest looking residences to urban castles. Usually the common areas included sheep pens, silos, stables, a market and even a meeting room for the leaders and a mosque. Nevertheless the heritage of Ait-Ben-Haddou is a celebration of pre-Saharan construction techniques and Moroccan architecture which are believed to be also dominant in the regions of the Great Maghreb, Mauritania and Libya.