The Ancient City of Aït Benhaddou

Driving Through the Atlas Mountains of Morocco After Telouet we drove through the mountains some more, enjoying more incredible scenery with every bend in the road.  The Atlas Mountains are a truly incredible sight to behold.

Driving Through the Atlas Mountains of Morocco Eventually we arrived at our final destination for the day, Aït Benhaddou.  Aït Benhaddou was built somewhere around the period of the 17th century.  Google isn’t producing any websites that will actually date the site, surprisingly.  So, its old, but in the grand scheme of things, not too old.

Aït BenhaddouOne of the major disappointments with our guided tour was that this was our only frontal shot location for this great fortified city.  We were so far away, I had to use swap out for a zoom lens to even get this shot, with a point and shoot, I can’t imagine what you’ll get.  I asked our guide if we would be able to go down along the river for a shot and he said we would, but we never did.  I forgot to readdress that later, maybe he hadn’t understood my question?

The Atlas Mountains near Aït BenhaddouOf course, the setting of this fortified city, or kasbah, was just gorgeous.  How many places can you see palm trees against a backdrop of snow?  Plus the little hills beyond the trees in the above picture are covered in little purple flowers…

Looking down on Aït BenhaddouOur guide took us over the river, through the city, and up to the top of the hill.  A hot climb in the sun, even if the weather overall was cool and breezy.

Wandering through Aït BenhaddouThe city is largely composed of little mud houses, connected by various streets and stairways, creating a maze of sorts throughout.

Wandering through Aït BenhaddouSome houses are still occupied.  There are a handful of families who still live in the city and take care of it.  They are eager to welcome you into their homes, but I think was largely with the expectation of you paying for said privilege.  Scattered among the lower houses were larger, defensive fortresses.  Near the main gate, they were occupied by the prominent families and provided the defense of the city.

Wandering through Aït BenhaddouIf Aït Benhaddou looks familiar to any of you, there’s a reason why.  This is a huge filming location for a lot of movies with a Middle Eastern theme to them.  These include The Jewel of the Nile, Gladiator, The Mummy, and Prince of Persia.  The list goes on and on of course, there’s plenty of them.  Also of note, for those of you who are Game of Thrones fans, this city was used for filming some of the Yunkai scenes.

Camel riding near Aït BenhaddouAfter our tour through Aït Benhaddou, we grabbed lunch at a little restaurant.  I had prearranged with the tour group to have a reservation at a restaurant in the area.  However, not knowing this, our guide took us to the typical restaurant.  It wasn’t very good, especially compared with the amazing food we had been eating in Marrakesh.  We made note of the poor food quality and choice of restaurant on the survey/questionnaire form we were asked to complete.  A few days later the company emailed me explaining the mistake and offering to refund us.  Aside from this little blunder and the disappointment of the view of Aït Benhaddou, I highly recommend this tour company.  We enjoyed our time, and felt it was well worth the money.  You can view the tour here, if you’re interested in looking into it.

Camel riding near Aït BenhaddouAfter lunch, our guide took us a little further down the road to an individual with some camels.  We had previously expressed our desire to ride a camel while on our tour.  The man with the camels did not speak much English and quickly ushered us into his little hut.  There he had us pick out a color for a headwrap which he proceeded to put on us.  We then met and mounted our camels, the camels were tied to each, and he led us off for a little walk…

Camel riding near Aït BenhaddouAll together it wasn’t a very long ride, but it was plenty long enough to enjoy ourselves and get the experience of riding a camel.  I think I actually like it better than a horse, I feel like I can never match a horse’s gait and am always on the brink of bouncing off.  The camels were much smoother and you just kind of rock with them.  However, one of the camels we rode on turned out to be rather unfriendly.  We stopped at one point and the guide took my camera to take pictures of us.  Well, as I’m sitting there, obliviously smiling at the camera, the camel behind me decides my thigh looks pretty delicious and chomps down on it!  Seriously OW!  I jerked my leg away and started trying to tell the guy his camel was biting me, but he was smiling and talking away and apparently oblivious as to what I was trying to say.  So, we continue on our walk, all is good, until we stop later for a different picture with mountains behind us.  The camel tried to bite me again!  This time I was ready for it and the bite wasn’t quite as hard.  So, watch out for camel bites!  But don’t let that prevent you from going, I think it was just the one camel being grumpy, since others didn’t do that…

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