Discover 2 Beautiful Views of Ait Ben Haddou

Ait Ben Haddou, Morocco, Ksar, UNESCO, fortress, ancient cities, sunrise, sunset

The Ksar of Ait Ben Haddou is one of the most architecturally stunning icons of Morocco. You may have seen this majestic ancient fortress either in the movies (Gladiator) or on TV (Game of Thrones).

The natural esthetic of Ait Ben Haddou is undeniable. Photographers come to capture the perfect panorama. Sunset chasers seek it out as one of the best places in Morocco to watch day turn to night. And travelers like us choose it as a picturesque location to break up the drive between Marrakech and the Sahara.

Some stay in the area for several days, but Ait Ben Haddou can definitely be visited as a day trip from Marrakech. So, the question is: once you’re out here, what’s the best way to “do” Ait Ben Haddou?

2 beautiful views of Ait Ben Haddou:

  1. from the inside, looking out
  2. from the outside, looking in

We recommend you view it both ways. And if you don’t have time for an overnight, you can catch both views in 3 hours or less.

Ait Ben Haddou, Morocco, Ksar, UNESCO, fortress, ancient cities, sunrise, sunset
The Ksar of Ait Ben Haddou became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987. First impression: simply stunning.

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View #1: From the inside, looking out

After our early departure from Marrakech and 9 long hours driving through the High Atlas Mountains, we’re both eager to get out of the van and explore Ait Ben Haddou before sunset.

The Ksar (Ksar → fortress) of Ait Ben Haddou must be explored on foot. We decide that our plan is to first enter and explore the fortress from the inside while we have daylight. Later, we’ll drive a few miles away, so we can catch a view from the outside as the sun is setting.

To enter the Ksar, you’ve got 2 options.

Option #1: cross the river, at ground level

This is how we entered, but it’s only an option if the river is mostly dry. During our visit, the water was a few inches deep. But we were still able to cross, by jumping from rock to rock.

Ait Ben Haddou, Morocco, Ksar, UNESCO, fortress, ancient cities, sunrise, sunset
To enter the fortress of Ait Ben Haddou, the river was low enough that we could cross on foot. We used the rocks on the left as stepping stones.

Option #2: cross the upper bridge

This is how we left the fortress. If the river is flowing, you’ll need to use the bridge to get in and out.  Crossing the river would be difficult and dangerous.

Ait Ben Haddou, Morocco, Ksar, UNESCO, fortress, ancient cities, sunrise, sunset
Bridge connecting the “new city” of Ait Ben Haddou with the ancient Ksar.

Weaving through the pathways toward the top of the fortress, we encounter several mini souks, which provide an opportunity for shopping inside the fortress.

Ait Ben Haddou, Morocco, Ksar, UNESCO, fortress, ancient cities, sunrise, sunset
Mini souks inside the Ksar of Ait Ben Haddou.

As we approached the top of the fortress, we begin to hear a low, steady beat, which grows louder with every step. We turn a final corner and are suddenly face-to-face with a drum circle of young local men. A encounter & a beautiful enhancement to our climb.

This would be the first of 3 drum circles over the next few days!

Ait Ben Haddou, Morocco, Ksar, UNESCO, fortress, ancient cities, sunrise, sunset
Local drum circle atop the fortress of Ait Ben Haddou.
Ait Ben Haddou, Morocco, Ksar, UNESCO, fortress, ancient cities, sunrise, sunset
View from atop the fortress of Ait Ben Haddou: lush foliage somehow thrives here, despite the dry desert and summer heat.
Ait Ben Haddou, Morocco, Ksar, UNESCO, fortress, ancient cities, sunrise, sunset
View from inside the Ksar, looking out upon the “new city” of Ait Ben Haddou.
Ait Ben Haddou, Morocco, Ksar, UNESCO, fortress, ancient cities, sunrise, sunset
This local artist blew us away with his on-the-spot “ink magic.” We can’t betray his secret, but encourage you to try and find him and see for yourself!

We descend the stone staircases, exit the Ksar, cross the bridge, climb inside the van, and drive away from the fortress toward our second viewpoint.

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View #2: From the outside, looking in

A few miles away, we find a private location atop a mountain, which provides the perfect 360-degree view of Ait Ben Haddou.

Ait Ben Haddou, Morocco, Ksar, UNESCO, fortress, ancient cities, sunrise, sunset
The Ksar, from afar.
Ait Ben Haddou, Morocco, Ksar, UNESCO, fortress, ancient cities, sunrise, sunset
Sunset panorama from the top of Ait Ben Haddou.
Ait Ben Haddou, Morocco, Ksar, UNESCO, fortress, ancient cities, sunrise, sunset
“When the battle is won, there can only be one; the stone that was thrown through a window-less stone window, or the window-less stone window hit by a stone that was thrown?”
– Anonymous Moroccan Philosopher
Ait Ben Haddou, Morocco, Ksar, UNESCO, fortress, ancient cities, sunrise, sunset
We call this one “the awkward hello.”

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Where we stayed (for 7 hours)

Shortly after sunset, we make our way to the calming oasis of Riad Caravane, thanks to a friend of ours who had given us the recommendation.

The staff was lovely. The food was incredible. And the room was exactly what we needed for our brief overnight stay.

Sunrise the next morning at 5:30am was absolutely stunning.

Ait Ben Haddou, Morocco, Ksar, UNESCO, fortress, ancient cities, sunrise, sunset
Sunrise from the upper terrace of Riad Caravane.
Ait Ben Haddou, Morocco, Ksar, UNESCO, fortress, ancient cities, sunrise, sunset
Ait Ben Haddou sunrise.

***

TIME CHANGE! Clocks moved back one hour that night.

After another perfect Moroccan breakfast, we hop in the van and hit the road early. Although our visit to Ait Ben Haddou was short, it was also very sweet.

Our journey into the Sahara would be complete later that day, but first, we’d make a few beautiful stops along the way.

Cheers!

-DnA

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