Ait Ben Haddou
Last Updated: May 13, 2023

Mohssin Mazar

Ait Ben Haddou enchants travelers with its captivating beauty and historical significance. It is located in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains in Morocco. The village is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a testament to traditional Moroccan architecture. Its fortified mud-brick buildings, known as the palace, rise majestically against the backdrop of the desert landscape.

Exploring the narrow streets and intricate alleyways also reveals a glimpse into the village’s rich history and Berber culture. Ait Ben Haddou has been the backdrop for many films and TV shows, adding to its appeal. The village’s timeless charm and well-preserved buildings also make it a must-visit destination for history buffs and those looking for a glimpse into Morocco’s past.

Ait Ben Haddou village

History

They fortified the site of the palace since the Almoravid era in the eleventh century. As they do not believe that any of the extant structures predate the seventeenth century. But it is possible that they used the same building techniques and designs as centuries before.

The site’s location in the Unila Valley along one of the main trans-Saharan trade routes also contributed to its strategic importance. This road also led to the Tizi Ntishka pass. which was one of the few crossings of the Atlas Mountains between Marrakech and The Draa Valley borders the desert. Along this road there were many kasbahs. Including neighboring Tamdaght to the north.

Today, the palace is inhabited by a few families. In addition, the valley lost its strategic importance in the twentieth century, which led to a gradual decline in its population. the majority of the local population now resides in modern dwellings in the village on the other side of the river where they survive primarily on farming and tourism.

They also built a new pedestrian bridge connecting the old palace and the modern village in 2011. This is with the aim of facilitating access to the palace and possibly encouraging residents to return to their historic homes.

Ait Ben Haddou Description

Design of the website’s layout

The palace is situated on the slopes of a cliff adjacent to the Asif Onila River. Where the village buildings are located within a defensive wall with corner towers and a gate.

The area of these dwellings ranges from modest homes to high-rise buildings. Some of the upper parts of the structures are also decorated with geometric patterns. Also in the village are a number of public or community buildings, including a mosque, an inn, a kasbah (fortress-like fortifications), and a marabout of Sidi Ali or Amer.

Also at the top of the hill. Overlooking the palace are the ruins of a huge fortified granary (Agadir). There is also a public square, an Islamic cemetery and a Jewish cemetery. Outside the palace fortifications was an area for grain cultivation and threshing.

Construction materials in Ait Ben Haddou

They built palace structures exclusively from rammed earth. Bricks, mud bricks, and also wood. Rammed earth (they also call it pisé, tabia, and luh) was a very practical and cost-effective material, but it required regular maintenance.

It usually consisted of clay and mud which they pressed and mixed with an adhesive reinforcing material. They also built the structures of Ait Ben Haddou and other kasbahs and palaces in this region of Morocco, usually with a mixture of earth and thatch, which was permeable and easily eroded by rain.
As a result, abandoned villages of this type can begin to decline within a few decades. In order to reduce the weight of the walls. They built the upper floors of the tall buildings in Ait Benhaddou from lighter materials than mud bricks.

Preservation

They renovated the Ait Ben Haddou Palace greatly in the modern era. This is partly due to its use as a filming location for Hollywood productions and its 1987 inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
According to UNESCO. The palace “maintained its architectural authenticity in terms of composition and materials” by continuing to use traditional building techniques and materials and largely avoiding new concrete structures. A local committee responsible for overseeing and managing the site.

Outstanding universal value

Located at the foothills of the southern peaks of the High Atlas in the wilaya of Ouarzazate, Ait Ben Haddou is the most famous palace of the Ouenila Valley. The Ait Ben Haddou Palace is also a distinctive example of architecture in southern Morocco.
The mansion is basically a community of residences. within the defensive walls. There are many dwellings, fortified with corner towers and pierced by a stately door, some modest, others resembling small urban castles with their towers.

It is topped with decorative adobe patterns, in addition to buildings and community spaces. It is an impressive collection of structures that provides a comprehensive overview of pre-desert land building techniques.
Early constructions did not appear until the seventeenth century. Despite the fact that architecture and technology originated in the primitive past in the valleys of southern Morocco. The site was also one of several trading points along the trade route that connected ancient Sudan to Marrakesh via the Wadi al-Durra and the Tizi-Talwit Pass.

Architecturally

Architecturally, the habitat structure is suspended. Closed and compressed group. Public spaces in the palace include a mosque, a public square, threshing areas outside the walls, a fort, and a granary at the top of the village. Caravan, two cemeteries (Muslim and Jewish), and the sanctuary of Mar Sidi Ali or Amer. Ksar Ait Ben Haddou is an example of the pre-Saharan architecture of the pre-Saharan regions of Morocco.

Ksar Ait Ben Haddou is an outstanding example of a palace in southern Morocco. An embodiment of the main types of earthen structures observed in the seventeenth century in the Dora, Todgha, Dades and Souss valleys.

Criteria (5): Ksar Ait Ben Haddou represents the traditional earthen habitat, symbolizing the culture of southern Morocco, which has been weakened by irreversible social, economic and cultural changes.

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