I want to tell you about a place, a very very cool place, in the middle of nowhere, that may quite possibly be my favourite place that we visited on our road-trip. Ait Ben Haddou sits piled high a couple of hours out of Marrakech, only accessible over a twisted mountain pass and bumpy single track gravel road. After navigating our way out of the city we continued to follow the only road into the distance and up into the Atlas mountains. On the way we were treated to a diverse range of scenery, from lakes, to wasteland, to desert, to mountains and finally the route of a thousand kasbahs.
Ait Ben Haddou is one of these kasbahs that blends seamlessly into the horizon due to the brick red colour of the houses. You enter the village via a dirt track and are given a tour around the maze of narrow alleys by a friendly villager. Only eight families still live in the old kasbah, made out of mud and straw, as many have migrated to the newer town a mile or so away because of the availability of electricity, flowing water and education! Whilst I can't knock those who decided to move, especially those who moved to give their children an education, I definitely have the upmost respect for those who continue to live a traditional life, especially surrounded by the temptation of modern changes.
Life is simple in the kasbah, with animals serving as the focus of family life, literally, as they live in the houses with the families and are used for travel, carrying, labour and eating. Despite the hardships of life the people are so warm and friendly. Community is the name of the game in this little village, the women even have a labour cooperative. We were kindly invited in for traditional Berber tea and I just couldn't get over how amazingly beautiful and welcoming the tea room was.
I should also mention that Ait Ben Haddou is a well established film set for huge feature films such as Gladiator and even Game of Thrones. All the inhabitants are eager to tell you about their experience being extras in most of the films, Russell Crowe is everywhere and is awarded hero stations by the village. I loved witnessing the paradoxical blend of modern consumer culture with the tradition way of life in order to create a unique community spirit and culture found in the middle of no-where in a humble and simple kasbah.
If you are in the area, or even if you are not, go and visit the village of Ait Ben Haddou and meet the sweetest people of North Africa and the best cup of sweet tea you will ever taste.
Mood - Welcomed