Ksar of Ait Benhaddou is the most magnificent fortress in Morocco. It was built in the 11th century on the banks of the Asif Ounila River to guard the caravan route through the Sahara Desert from Marrakech to Timbuktu. Ait Benhaddou is one of the most interesting historical sites in Morocco.
Fortresses in Morocco are called Ksars. Ait Benhaddou is a greatest example of Moroccan earthen clay fortress architecture from the Middle Ages. Outside of Ouarzazate town, there is a road where you can see dozens of clay casbahs. This road is called the "Road of a Thousand Kasbahs". However, Ksar Ait Benhaddou is not just a fortress (casbah); it is a real fortified town. It looks so authentic that dozens of films have been shot here. Some of them are very famous.
The basis of the building material for all the casbahs of Morocco is reed and clay. This is not the most durable material, so by the end of the 20th century, ksar Ait Benhaddou was in ruins. Today, a significant part of it has been restored, and many tourists come here. In 1987, Ait Benhaddou was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The village, where modern hotels and cafes are located, is on the right bank of the Ouarzazate River. There is no bridge over the river, but most of the year the river is not very full, so it is easy to ford it. If you do not want to get your feet wet, you can hire a donkey of local residents at the ford.
You can enter Ait Benhaddou through the museum. This entrance is paid. The museum was opened by families who, despite the dilapidated state, continued to live in the ksar. There you can see the living conditions, which have not changed much since the 11th century. If you do not want to visit the museum, then you can enter Ait Benhaddou for free. You can walk along the terraces of the fortress, climbing the mountainside to the mosque.