After our carpet-buying expedition, we waited until 5:00 for our tour guide Mohammed to take us on a guided walk through the Aït Ben Haddou ksar. Considered one of the most impressive in all of Morocco, it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. In the 11th century, the red mudbrick series of six joined kasbahs and nearly 50 palaces was an Almoravid caravanserai. Aït Ben Haddou’s walls and interior are mostly intact, despite seasonal rains that perpetually erode the buildings. Restoration efforts and maintenance are ongoing.
The town is now famous as a filming location and has been used in many film and TV productions like Lawrence of Arabia, Jesus of Nazareth, The Mummy, Prince of Persia, Jewel of the Nile, Gladiator, Babel and Game of Thrones.
Mohammed took us first to his family home to meet his mother and to see the simple dwelling with its long, rectangular, carpeted and cushioned communal area adorned with posters and photos from Gladiator, in which Mohammed played an extra.
We then walked up and through the mud brick buildings and vendors selling enticing rugs, jewelry, ceramics, and trinkets.
We stopped to watch artisans painting desert scenes with green tea, indigo, saffron, and melted sugar. Secret messages were written in lemon juice and could be seen when put over fire. I bought a small postcard-sized painting of the ksar with green in front but I wished I’d bought another with camels on it.
In the workshop, we saw the Berber alphabet, Berber symbols, and the Berber flag.
We climbed to the ruined agadir (fortified granary) for views of the surrounding palmeraie (palm grove), the parched Oued Ounila riverbed, the new town and the unforgiving hammada (stony desert). The wind was blowing ferociously, hurling stinging sand into our eyes.
As we made our way back down, Father Anthony and I lingered at the various vendors while the rest of the group moved on. Many in the group had a tagine cooking class to attend at 7:00, so we hung back and wandered in our own time, browsing and laughing. Anthony had a funny laugh and he enjoyed enticing me into buying a purple, black and turquoise striped scarf with some white agave threads woven through it. I also bought an apple green pashmina, a color I didn’t have. The vendors tried to sell them to me at 250 dirhams, but I expressed shock and said we got them in Fez for 100, and I ended up getting them both for 120 dirhams each, still too much.
After we returned to the hotel, I walked by myself down the road in the new town to a small “snack bar,” an open-air cafe run by black Moroccans. I ordered an omelette fromage that seemed to be missing the fromage, some Frites and a banana orange juice.
Back at the room, I repacked my overnight stuff into a small bag for the mountain gîte we’d stay in the following night. We had to carry only a small overnight bag since a donkey would be carrying our luggage up the mountain. I read some of The Forgiven but the light was bad and Susan came in talking away about the tagine class, so I didn’t get much reading done.
* Steps: 9,779, or 4.14 miles*
*Thursday, April 16, 2019*
“PHOTOGRAPHY” INVITATION: I invite you to create a photography intention and then create a blog post for a place you have visited. Alternately, you can post a thematic post about a place, photos of whatever you discovered that set your heart afire. You can also do a thematic post of something you have found throughout all your travels: churches, doors, people reading, people hiking, mountains, patterns, all black & white, whatever!
One of my intentions was to take thematic photos, but in the case of Aït Ben Haddou, I was simply impressed by everything, so I just took photos of all that I loved about the town.
You probably have your own ideas about this, but in case you’d like some ideas, you can visit my page: photography inspiration.
I challenge you to post no more than 20-25 photos (I have more!) and to write less than 1,500 words about any travel-related photography intention you set for yourself. Include the link in the comments below by Wednesday, March 18 at 1:00 p.m. EST. When I write my post in response to this challenge on Thursday, March 19, I’ll include your links in that post.
This will be an ongoing invitation, every first, second, and third (& 5th, if there is one) Thursday of each month. Feel free to jump in at any time. 🙂
I hope you’ll join in our community. I look forward to reading your posts!