Kasbah of Ait Ben Haddou

An iconic fortified village dating back to the 8th Century, Ait Ben Haddou was built in the traditional clay-earth style of architecture along primary trade routes. 4 families still live there today!

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987, Ait Ben Haddou is well-preserved, and is found in the Ouarzazate region of Morocco.

Map of Morocco showing the location of Ait Ben Haddou

Location of Ait Ben Haddou

Ait Ben Haddou’s placement on the map relates to its history as an administrative center for the region along an old caravan route.

Located in the Ounila Valley not far from Ouarzazate, you may be forgiven for thinking it near the Sahara. While this is geographically correct, the landscape surrounding Ait Ben Haddou is primarily foothills, themselves dwarfed by the Atlas Mountains to the North.

The river Asif Ounila runs alongside it, as if to prove the Kasbah’s non-desert status. 

Ait Ben Haddou History

It is estimated that Ait Ben Haddou was first established as a settlement on one of the ancient trans-Saharan trade routes around the year 757.

The story goes that the Kasbah’s founder, Ben-Haddou, was later buried behind the town of his own name, and lies undisturbed for over a millennia to this day.

A fortified ‘Ksar’ (which generally means collection of homes), it’s location on a trade route may well have made it a rich target for bandits over its 1,250+ years of history.

Now a Unesco World Heritage site since 1987, its authentic old-world charm has cause it to appear in several Hollywood films, most notably The Jewel of the Nile’, James Bond’s ‘The Living Daylights’ and even Gladiator

It is believed that the town of Ait-Ben-Haddou was established in 757 and its founder, Ben-Haddou, still lies buried in his tomb behind this spectacular city. Most of the original inhabitants of the Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou have moved across the river to more modern homes. The river can be crossed by jumping the stepping stones, and some residents of the new village have small stores within the Ksar of Ait-Ben-Haddou, selling artifacts and other souvenirs to tourists. 

How To Get to Ait Ben Haddou

The ancient trade route between the Sahara and Marrakech on the other side of the mountains roughly follows what is now the P1506 – a major road that connects to the larger N9 between Marrakech and Ouarzazate. Easily accessible by car over the moutains, Morocco Sunny Days also runs day-trips and tours through this jewel of the foothills.

Traditionally, Ait Ben Haddou is accessed via the stepping stones over the river from the more modern settlement.

Ait Ben Haddou FAQs

Do I need a guided tour of Ait Ben Haddou?

No, not really, however it helps to have a friendly and knowledgeable guide on hand. Our drivers will be on hand to offer you information and show you the secrets if you wish, but can otherwise leave you to explore if you want to venture off solo.

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Day Trips and Tours to Ait Ben Haddou

The Kasbah at Ait Ben Haddou is a firm favourite with our day-trippers and Morocco tour explorers, all in the comfort and safety of our 4×4 Toyota Landcruisers

Or you can build your own custom-made trips and tours around Morocco – just get in touch!

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A legendary desert all schoolchildren dream of visiting, our Sahara tour is a firm favorite –  Get started planning your visit today by asking for more information.