Aït Ben Haddou conjures photos of biblical cities, lengthy misplaced villages, and battling Persian and Greek armies. It’s been utilized in many movies and is greatest seen on a highway journey via the Ounila Valley.
For hundreds of years, the Ounila Valley was the principle passageway between Marrakech and the caravan routes of the Sahara. Tradesmen got here to alternate their wares and the highly effective watched on to extract their taxes. The remnants of their energy can nonetheless be found within the magnificent decaying ruins of Telouet Kasbah and the fortified city of Anmiter that also line the route.
The spotlight on the finish of the valley is Aït Ben Haddou. A fantastically set fortified city, its crimson mud-brick façade and partitions conjure photos of biblical cities, lengthy misplaced villages, and battling Persian and Greek armies. It has been utilized in movies together with Gladiator, Jesus of Nazareth, Jewel of the Nile and The Mummy. However is maybe most well-known for Sport of Thrones.
Many go to Aït Ben Haddou by driving from Marrakech to Ouarzazate taking the principle N9 highway. However it’s significantly better to take the P1506 and head via the Ounila Valley. Not solely are there ruined kasbahs and cities however the river has carved dramatic canyons. Dotted with inexperienced crops contrasting towards red-rock valley partitions it is without doubt one of the most lovely locations in Morocco.
This information captures all of the highlights of driving via the Ounila Valley to the Sport of Thrones well-known Aït Ben Haddou.
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DRIVING TO AÏT BEN HADDOU THROUGH THE OUNILA VALLEY
Most get to Aït Ben Haddou by driving from Marrakech over the Tizi n’Tichka cross excessive within the Atlas Mountains and down into Ouarzazate, earlier than taking a brief detour to the ruined city. However it’s significantly better to take the P1506 via the Ounila Valley.
The P1506 leaves the N9 simply south of the Tizi n’Tichka cross and re-joins it simply west of Ouarzazate. The highway is paved and straightforward to drive in any 2WD. It takes 1 hour and half-hour to drive via probably the most picturesque part of the valley with none stops.
Nonetheless, you’ll want to give your self 4 or 5 hours to see all of the highlights alongside the best way, plus additional time to walk round Aït Ben Haddou. Finish the day staying at one of many visitor homes close to Aït Ben Haddou to catch dawn or sundown on this most beautiful of locations.
The route is proven on the map beneath and the remainder of the submit particulars the highlights alongside the best way. Earlier than you get began, learn our driving in Morocco information.
1 – TELOUET KASBAH
Earlier than the brand new highway between Marrakech and Ouarzazate was constructed within the Thirties the Ounila valley was the principle passageway between the northern cities of Morocco and the caravan routes of the Sahara Desert. The tribal leaders that managed these routes turned fabulously rich from the taxes they might impose on passing commerce. The final of those tribal leaders was Thami el Glaoui and it’s his household that constructed the magnificent Telouet Kasbah.
From the surface, this massive kasbah (fortified residence) appears like a crimson ruined hulk with crumbling partitions. However head inside, cross via a warren of tightly packed rooms, and also you quickly get a glimpse of the majestic wealth that should as soon as have been on show right here. Wonderful painted cedarwood is fitted into the ceilings, intricate plaster carvings adorn the doorways and brilliant zellij mosaics cowl the partitions. Even the fantastic views from the home windows are framed by elegant iron grills.
2 – FORTIFIED KSAR OF ANMITER
Just some miles east of Telouet Kasbah the Ounila River meets the highway and the panorama adjustments. As a substitute of miles and miles of barren rock, inexperienced slithers of vegetation line the valley flooring offering meals and water for the previous fortified village (ksar) of Anmiter.
This is without doubt one of the best-preserved ksars in Morocco and is what Aït Ben Haddou would have seemed like earlier than vacationers and film fame got here calling.
When you have the time, Anmiter is value exploring. Both take the tough highway down into the city or depart your automobile on the high and make your method down on foot. Alternatively, keep the night time at Kasbah Tigmi N’Oufella simply south of Anmiter and get the useful host to organise a dawn or sundown strolling tour for you.
3 – OUNILA VILLAGES
From Anmiter, the tarmac highway now winds its method south via very good highway journey nation. Following the trail of the river, the highway twists and turns – clinging to the canyon edge. It’s an excellent highway in incredible surroundings. You may full the drive in an hour, however it will be insanity to take action.
As a substitute, take your time, cease, get out and recognize the beautiful surroundings of rippling crimson rocks, towering canyon partitions and plush inexperienced valleys. The attractive scene is all backed by the Atlas Mountains. Oblivious to the few highway trippers who make this journey are ladies working within the fields, males herding sheep and donkeys being ushered alongside in direction of native villages.
4 – TAMDAGHT KASBAH
Whereas Tamdaght Kasbah might lack the opulence of Telouet Kasbah or the film star fame of Kasbah Aït Ben Haddou, it has a extra real Berber really feel. Set amidst engaging environment, this Glaoui stronghold is a powerful sight standing proud over the Ounila Valley.
There isn’t any formal entrance or opening occasions, as a substitute, you must knock on the entrance door and see if somebody will allow you to in. It may be a little bit of a problem so it is likely to be higher to walk the city and take footage from the highway. Particularly, the views from the south throughout the inexperienced valley flooring trying as much as the kasbah are glorious.
5 – AÏT BEN HADDOU
Whereas many travellers skip the Ounila Valley, most make the brief journey from Ouarzazate to Aït Ben Haddou. This unique location has been utilized in movies together with Gladiator, Jesus of Nazareth, Jewel of the Nile and The Mummy. However it’s maybe most well-known for Sport of Thrones.
Set attractively throughout a shallow stream, the crimson mud-brick façade conjures photos of biblical cities, lengthy misplaced villages, and battling Persian and Greek armies. Castellated partitions relaxation on the facet of a hill from which there’s a powerful view of the encompassing space.
Inside, tiny alleyways and staircases meander across the crimson brick buildings that are in numerous states of decay. Some have been left for damage whereas others have been renovated or utterly rebuilt by the vacationer trade. It’s much less about an genuine take a look at rural Morocco, and extra about previous movie units, massive crowds and native salesmen.
Nonetheless, head right here at dawn or sundown and the crowds can have disappeared, the stallholders gone and Kasbah Aït Ben Haddou will shimmer within the night gentle. Moreover, head as much as the highest of one of many simply climbed surrounding hills and you can be rewarded with some lovely desolate mountain surroundings.
WHERE TO STAY IN THE OUNILA VALLEY
Like many locations off the crushed monitor in Morocco, the Ounila Valley has some glorious worth and atmospheric lodging. Removed from the chain inns, most of the sleeping choices within the space are native impartial riads or small charming inns.
The opposite advantage of staying on this explicit a part of Morocco is the possibility to bask in a fortified-ksar-inspired lodging and to seize Aït Benhaddou at dawn and sundown.
We’ve extra options for visiting Aït Ben Haddou in our information to Ouarzazate.
GREAT VALUE TAMDAKHTE
Simply north of Aït Ben Haddou, this glorious worth riad has magnificent views from each its upstairs roof terrace and the entrance patio. Massive and comfy rooms fantastically adorned in native Moroccan type make this our favorite within the space. It’s a 30-minute drive to Ouarzazate.
AÏT BEN HADDOU
In a minimalist type, this upmarket riad is simply a 10-minute stroll from Aït Ben Haddou. The views of the encompassing countryside are glorious.
WHEN TO VISIT THE AÏT BEN HADDOU
The Ounila Valley is at its most lovely in spring. At the moment, the plush inexperienced crops on the valley flooring distinction fantastically with the crimson rock. Nonetheless, in early spring the passes over the mountains can nonetheless be coated in snow making them impassable. So we recommend you propose your go to from late-March to early Might when the roads ought to be open and the temperatures not too excessive.
After the summer time temperatures drop, mid-September to mid-October can be an excellent time to go to though the inexperienced valley flooring won’t be as vibrant as in spring.
Whereas not important it’s also value avoiding Ramadan. Morocco is a really non secular nation with strict adherence to fasting. This implies guides should not eager to take lengthy hikes, and native cafes and providers are sometimes closed.
Aït Ben Haddou is greatest seen at dawn or sundown when the crowds have disappeared, the temperatures are cooler and the golden gentle shimmers on the buildings.
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