Aït Ben Haddou is abandoned. Aït Ben Haddou is full of people. Contradiction?! Yes!!!
This village, once a stopover in the ancient caravan route from Marrakesh to the Sahara, it’s now classified as UNESCO world heritage and attracts many visitors. But apparently no one lives in Aït Ben Haddou, but in the other side of the river that creates an oasis of green in this arid and almost empty landscape, interrupted here and there by palm tree plantations.
Build in the traditional clay construction that gives the warm red-brown color, characteristic from this eastern side of the high Atlas, Aït Ben Haddou surrounded by walls, with the houses sliding down along the slope merging with the colors of the dry soil.
Presently, this ancient village is busy during the day, receiving hundred of visitors most of them arriving in big groups, that don’t spend here more than half an hour, checking the views and giving a quick look to the souvenir shops. In fact 30 minutes is time enough to walk through the steep and narrow streets that lead to the top of the hill, where the ruins of a fortification are situated which is an excellent point of observation for the plain around. From here we can still glimpse, far away, the peaks of the High Atlas that we crossed when left Marrakesh, bringing a freezing cold wind, while facing east we know that the desert is waiting for us.
Where to sleep:
Check Ouarzazate post.
Where to eat:
Along the road that pass by Aït Ben Haddou there are a few restaurants, but in October, maybe because is low season, they were almost all closed, and the ones that were open were far from be appealing.
Inside the Aït Ben Haddou, everything was closed except some antiques/souvenirs shops.
But if you just want to chill a bit, look for a tent on the left side of Aït Ben Haddou entrance, just after you cross the river. It’s the Tawesna, a project with the aim of supporting women from this village, showing at the same time the Berber culture and hospitality. It’s basically a tent that works as a teashop, serving the traditional green tea with mint, and where you can taste the local dates or some salty snacks. Here you can get an unlimited refill of tea and smiles for 20 Dirham.
How to move around:
On foot. Aït Ben Haddou is very small and there’s no traffic.
The taxi drops you in the main road and from there is a short walk to the village, crossing a pedestrian bridge.
How to go from Ouarzazate to Aït Ben Haddou:
There isn´t a direct public transport from Ouarzazate to Aït Ben Haddou (also written as Aït Benhaddou). You need first to get a bus to Tabourahte and from there a shared taxi to Aït Ben Haddou.
So the best option, if you are with more people, is to share a taxi. You can find taxis close by the main square or at the bus terminal. The taxi ride cost 100 Dirham one-way, and if you want you can ask the driver to wait for you (even if you don’t ask he will probably be there waiting and will spot you when you return).