Of wind and dust!
Berber constructions of red clay
All around the desert, some donkeys, some dromedaries, some green spaces torn from the dust, cultivated, with the effort of hands and back, by the Berbers who have always inhabited this land.
You arrive in Ait Ben Haddou with a journey of 30 kilometers from Ouarzazate, a journey into almost nothing, which at your destination offers ancient suggestions.
Ait Ben Haddou - ford
Ksar in the distance
Understanding the origin of the name can help in the arduous attempt to memorize it.
Ait is a Berber word which means "sons (of)" and in this case it is used to indicate the tribe that once inhabited this fortress. The name is therefore already a symbol because this is the land of Berbers. They are the indigenous population of these Maghreb territories, which despite having seen alternating Roman, Barbarian and Arab invasions, proudly retain an independent spirit.
The fortified village, commonly called ksar not to be confused with the kasbah which is instead a single-family house, stands on a hill on the right bank of the Mellah River (Wadi Mellah).
It is almost difficult to see it, so much is it integrated into the surrounding scenery: sand on sand in a continuum that has something surprising. The houses, the walls, everything inside the Ksar is made of red clay and proudly resists, since the eleventh century, when it offered refreshment to the caravans that traveled from the Sahara Desert to Marrakech.
Even today, to renovate the various settlements, we proceed with respect for tradition, packaging the bricks with clay mixed with pebbles and straw, dried in rectangular shapes.
To reach the Ksar from the new city you can easily ford the river, which in summer has a minimal flow, or alternatively you can use the bridge that was built only in 2014, following a flood that had isolated the fortress for several days.
The Ksar is still inhabited by about ten families, but most of the places have become souvenir shops for the many tourists who come here.
Foulards in bright colors paint the reddish walls of the alleys. They are very useful for sheltering your head and mouth from desert dust. Wherever you can also buy the Tajine, the traditional terracotta pot with a cone lid, which gives the dishes a plus of taste thanks to the steam which, condensing in the cone, restores humidity to the dish.
Get lost in the alleys and climb up to the top of the hill, where an old grain warehouse stands. The wind will ruffle your hair, but the sight will pay off for the effort.
There seems to be nothing, but it is the essence of this land.
Not surprisingly, Ait Ben Haddou has often been chosen as the scene of many Hollywood films, it is no coincidence that it has been a UNESCO heritage site since 1987. Here everything is suggestion: a constant confrontation between man and environment, between man and man.
Let yourself be enchanted and carried away by the thoughts that will crowd your mind.
Have a good trip.