Aït Benhaddou (also spelled Ait Ben Haddou) is a historic fortified village an old caravan route running between the Sahara and Marrakech in Morocco. It has been heritage-listed since 1987 and is considered one of the great examples of Moroccan earthen clay architecture.

It is the location of many famous movies since the age of the epic movies of the early 1960s. Aït Benhaddou is well preserved and is an essential part of any visit to the incredible oasis city of Marrakech. Some tours even combine visiting Aït Benhaddou with camel trekking tours.

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About Aït Benhaddou And Why It's UNESCO Listed

It is a "Kasbah" or fortified structure and is located on the slopes of a hill. Within the defensive walls, the buildings are grouped together and the buildings range from modest houses to tall structures.

The fortification of the site dates from the 11th century during the Almoravid period in Morocco. That being said the buildings there today are not nearly that old with none dating from before the 17th century. Although their designs and methods of construction are likely to be the same as centuries before.

  • Founded: In The 11th Century As A Fort

It was situated on one of the few routes across the stunning Atlas Mountains and guarded the crossing between Marrakech and the Dra'a Valley over on the edge of the Sahara.

It is located just out of the small city of Ouarzazate - which is in itself one of Morocco's most famous tourist destinations. Ouarzazate is nicknamed the "Door of the Desert" and rests at an elevation of 1,160 meters of 3,810 feet.

Ouarzazate is on a plateau south of the High Altas Mountains and has the Sahara desert to the south. The majority of the population are Berber speakers. If one is visiting Ouarzazate one should also visit Aït Benhaddou and visa versa.

Aït Benhaddou is built entirely out of adobe, clay bricks, wood, and rammed earth. Rammed earth has the advantage of being practical and cheap but it requires constant maintenance and erodes from rain.

  • Listed: As World Heritage Site Since 1987

In modern times Aït Benhaddou has been substantially restored. In an effort to preserve the site, traditional materials and techniques are used and new concrete constructions are largely avoided.

Today Aït Benhaddou is not entirely deserted as several families continue to inhabit it, but most of the residences have long left for more modern buildings in the village nearby on the other side of the river.

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Movies Filmed In Aït Benhaddou

  • Movies: Extremely Popular As A Filming Location

A ridiculous number of movies have been shot in Aït Benhaddou. It has been a favorite filming destination since the 1960s and the old 60s epic Sodom and Gomorrah (1963) was one of the first major movies filmed there.

  • Depicts: Aït Benhaddou Is Often Used To Depict Jerusalem and Other Middle Eastern Settings

It has been a popular location for depicting Jerusalem in historical movies (even though it looks nothing like Jerusalem in real life). Some of the movies where it has depicted Jerusalem include Jesus of Nazareth (1977), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), and Kingdom of Heaven (2005). There is also nothing like visiting Jerusalem too, Israel is a tiny and yet diverse country that impresses everyone.

Other famous movies include The Man Who Would Be King (1975), The Message (1976), The Mummy (1999), Gladiator (2000), Prince of Persia (2010), David Attenborough: A life on our planet (2020), and many more.

  • Game Of Thrones: Aït Benhaddou Was Even Used In Filming Parts of Game of Thrones

Related: Crossing The Mighty Sahara Desert From Morocco To Senegal Via The Coastal Route

Visiting Aït Benhaddou

There are numerous tours of Aït Benhaddou from Marrakech and some of the tours are very affordable.

Ait Ben Haddou and Ouarzazate Day Trip: This tour includes a hotel pickup in Marrakesh and visits both Aït Benhaddou and Ouarzazate. Along the route, one can admire the panoramic views along the Tizi n'Tichka mountain pass and learn all about Aït Benhaddou from the knowledgeable guide.

  • Duration: 12 to 14 Hours
  • Language: English and 4 Other Languages
  • Cost: From $37

Private Ait Ben Haddou Tour with Road of the Kasbahs from Marrakech: For those who would like a private tour of Aït Benhaddou then this tour may be worth considering. This is a guided tour of the UNESCO site and also affords stunning views of the Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert. It is an ideal tour for first-timers to Marrakech. One will drive over the highest mountain pass in North Africa - the Tizi-N-Tichka pass. The Tizi-N-Tichka Pass reaches 2,269 meters.

  • Included: Hotel Pick Up, Local Guide, And Entrance Fees
  • Cost: From $140.00
  • Optional: Upgrade With A Camel Ride For an Extra $10
  • Lunch: Lunch Option Available in Local Restaurants

Next: This Is Why Everyone Should Visit Morocco (And What To Watch Out For)