The Great Moroccan Goodbye Tour, Part 3: Ait Benhaddou and the Dades Gorge
After our adventure to Ouzoud Falls on Saturday, we spent another night in Marrakech and set out the following morning on our road trip. Once again, we drove up and up into the Atlas Mountains. After a few hours, we arrived at one of Morocco’s most famous landmarks, the Kasbah Ait Benhaddou. You may have never heard of it, but you’ve almost certainly seen it! The walled hillside city of square earthen buildings has been in dozens of movies, from Lawrence of Arabia back in 1962, all the way up to Game of Thrones in 2013. (It’s where Dany is for most of Season 3.) Other movies filmed there include The Mummy, Gladiator, Prince of Persia, Kingdom of Heaven, and more. This UNESCO site was founded more than 1200 years ago, although the buildings that are left today are mostly around 400 years old. We parked about a half a mile away from the city and followed our guide Ibrahim (wearing his traditional robe, or jelaba, which made us feel like we were being led around by a Jedi) on a circuitous walk across the riverbed, up the hill, and finally entering the city at the top through a hole in the wall. We even had to crawl!
Once within the walls, we wandered down the narrow streets, pausing once in an artist’s studio. He showed us how he painted with indigo (for blue), tea (for black), and henna (for red). The paintings were almost invisible. To make the colors appear, he held the paper over a blowtorch. After toasting above the flames, the buildings, trees, and camels bloomed on the page. It was fascinating to watch.
Instead of hopping from rock to rock like we did the first time, now we used the bridge to cross back over the river. Ibrahim led us to a nice hotel, where we ate lunch on the terrace overlooking the Kasbah. When we were finished, we piled back into the van and hit the road. It was almost December, and the days were short, so it was already dark by the time we arrived at the guesthouse for the night. Here in the mountains, it was getting cold. We enjoyed dinner, mint tea, and traditional Berber drumming and singing before going to sleep.
The next morning, we woke to find ourselves in a steep, rocky canyon. Mohamed drove us up a windy road to a viewpoint where we could take in our surroundings. After lots of photos, it was back into the van once again. Our next stop? The Sahara.
Pictured in the gallery below, you'll find Ibrahim taking pics on his iphone, crawling through the wall into the Kasbah, the view from the top of the hill, the blowtorch artist, the view from the guesthouse in Dades Gorge, and the winding road up to the viewpoint.