Wednesday, June 7, 2017


It's been six months since we returned from Morocco, and I realize I never posted some of the best photos. That's the problem with going to places with bad internet connections - it is hard to upload photos. I suspect I won't have that problem in Dublin. Chris went into the hospital almost immediately upon our return, so posting photos post-trip was not important to me.

Ait Benhaddou

I got better after the food poisoning, and we set off for our destination, Ait Benhaddou.

I can say I've been to Ouarzazate, but I can't say I've seen any of it because I slept through it, powering myself through an illness that should have lasted several days. I slept at least ten hours, almost all of it in a row. I ate breakfast, drank coffee, and was ready to hit the road for Ait Benhaddou, one of the top sites I had wanted to visit in Morocco.

I mentioned Morocco's film industry in an earlier post. Well, we were in the heart of it, and there were film sculptures in the road to prove it. 

We passed Atlas Studios and ECLA Studios. You could see movie sets all around the area. Unfortunately, I didn't get much of these, just a quick video of ECLA.

Eventually we arrived at the UNESCO World Heritage Site Ait Benhaddou. You've seen it in movies. It's been in a couple of dozen of them - they're particularly proud that Gladiator was filmed there. Ait Benhaddou is a village constructed with mud and straw. Only four families live there now because houses of mud and straw aren't all that stable, but there is a town near it where people can live without fear of their houses falling down. Most of them are employed in the tourism or film industries, while the rest are farmers.

Because they are made of mud and straw, the buildings are not that old - none of them date back to before the 17th century, although the building style goes back much further. This site was a trading post on the route between the Sahara and Marrakesh. It seems so old that you expect to see caravans of camels going through it.

We spent an hour wandering around the place. I climbed to the top while ailing Chris was content to sit in the lone cafe in the village, which only served tea. We were visiting in the tourist off season, so full amenities were not available in some places. But it was perfect, because there were not a lot of people, which is how it has to be to take in a place like this. The walkways were narrow and the rooms we went in were quite small. I suppose the highlight was going into the cell where Russell Crowe was held at the beginning of Gladiator. They had a bunch of memorabilia from the movie there.

It was odd that they paid so much attention to that movie when so many movies have been filmed there, in addition to some of the popular Game of Thrones. The list includes (copied from wikipedia):
 The whole site was pretty impressive and worth the trip. It was quite a beautiful landscape as you can see:

Going to Ait Benhaddou

A mosque in the modern village. Notice the Berber design with the stacked blocks on the roof.

Even the modern village doesn't seem so modern.

Ait Benhaddou as seen through a tourist shop.

The snow-capped High Atlas Mountains as seen from the desert. Beautiful.

Fortress walls. Rock the casbah.

Where are we from?

I should have bought a rug. Still kicking myself.

Russell Crowe's cell in The Gladiator.

Sheep on an upstairs floor in a home.

Overlooking the modern town

This is where they had built the gladiator ring for the movie.

This guy was an extra in the movie

A rooftop cafe. They had tea. That was it.

A stork nest. They were everywhere in Morocco.

This is how votes are tallied during elections. The political parties are written at the top of the column and villagers votes are put in the corresponding columns.

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