Discover the charm of Ait Ben Haddou kasbah .
Ait Ben Haddou is located about thirty kilometers from Ouarzazate in Morocco. This is called a ksar.
A ksar is a fortified village, Berber architecture, found in different parts of North Africa.
In Morocco, they are quite present in southern Morocco. There are also ksar in Algeria or Tunisia. A ksar is often built on the buttress of a mount and near an oasis. They are therefore like fortified villages that contain one or more granaries and dwellings.
The word ksar comes from the Arabic qasr which means castle which itself comes from the Latin word castrum meaning stronghold.
Ait Ben Haddou is one of the most famous ksar of Morocco because it is impressive, rather well preserved and perfectly representative of what is a ksar. He is also famous for being the location of several films, including the famous Gladiator.
A bit of history about Ksar
Ait Ben Haddou is a ksar that was built in the valley of Ounila. This valley was one of the crossing points between Marrakech and the southern Sahara for caravans.
The oldest elements of Ait Ben Haddou date back to the 17th century. Ksar Ait Ben Haddou has retained its authenticity in terms of organization, construction but also materials. It uses red soil, very common in southern Morocco.
Within the ksar (or ksour) of Ait Ben Haddou, we find among others, a mosque, two cemeteries (a Muslim cemetery and a Jewish cemetery), a public square, an attic and other elements related to culture and harvesting cereals. The attic was used to store grain harvested in case of drought for the following years, a phenomenon common in this region of Morocco. The ksar of Ait Ben Haddou also has a caravanserai which allowed to accommodate the caravaneers during their long crossing between Marrakech and the south of the Sahara.
The Ksar of Ait Ben Haddou is a UNESCO World legacy Site. This is an example of southern Moroccan architecture but also a model of life and organization in this region of Morocco at the time.
The political organization of the past
The oral tradition speaks of the existence of two tribal confederations in the region.
The first included: Itelouan, Tikkirt, Ait Hussain, Tamakucht and Aït Ouaziz while the second included: Aït Zineb, Aït Semgan and Imeghan, with Aït Ben Haddou as allies (ameqq). In case of conflict, for example against Aït Ouaouzguit of Taourirt or Tazenakht, they called upon their allies.
The djemaâ of Aït Ben Haddou consisted of twelve people called imejmàen (or ineflas), and presided over by an amghar or sheikh. At the time of the Glaoua, they had, after their election by the inhabitants, to appear before the boss of Telouet to confirm by signature their legitimacy. Members of the Djemaa were elected not consensus each year in June after the moussem of Sidi Ali or Amer.
Elected were the adults (compulsorily male) who knew better the interests of qbila without distinction of social status. On the plan
legal, Muslim law (char) was in use especially in inheritance. However customary law (ùrf) was also practiced. For example, if an inhabitant killed another, he had to take refuge with the Imeghran for a year, after which he returned to the village to slaughter a beast to seek forgiveness from the victim’s family, if it was ‘agreement.
Habitat is par excellence a reflection of the socio-economic, political and natural environment from which it emerges. The old habitat Aït Ben Haddou is attached to the southern slope of a hill as to avoid the winds of the mountain by exposing itself to the sun.
The climate of insecurity, perpetual instability that prevailed allows to understand the defensive aspect of all these constructions. This climate is reflected in the site, in the construction techniques, in the functions of the buildings (guard towers, attic, ramparts, etc.).
The strategic position on the trade route between the southern zone and northern cities, disputes over water points and pastures explain the grouped, easy-to-defend form of houses. The choice of site is very significant because it allows both to monitor roads, crop areas, water intakes and to defend against the potential enemy. Houses to better face external dangers have gathered together, huddled together and frightened together. The exterior walls are blind, the ramparts are high and the accesses are controlled. The ksar has three great doors, that of Imi n’Ighrem, that of Imi n’Talat n’Tighoura and that of Imi n’ou Azerg Aït Ben Haddou. All these doors are kept and closed at night.
Finally If you are traveling in southern Morocco, make this detour via Ait Ben Haddou. This ksar is impressive and although tourist, it is one of the most beautiful of southern Morocco. There is a good chance that you will take the road Marrakech / Ouarzazate during your journey in the south of Morocco. Going to Ait Ben Haddou will only make a short detour.
Do not forget that Aït Ben Haddou is a must for a road trip in Morocco and it is clearly the most beautiful ksar of the kingdom!
If you plan to go to Ait Ben Haddou and you have questions on the subject, do not hesitate to comment on this post. I reply quickly to comments posted on the blog! Our exchanges will certainly be useful to other readers of the blog who also intend to include the ksar of Ait Ben Haddou in their travel itinerary in Morocco!