Ait Benhaddou, Tisseldai, & onto Marrakech

By Ali Karim
This post is part of a series called Morocco May 2017
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After a very peaceful night, we were woken up by the sounds of bleating goats; coming to the river in the gorge for a drink. Got up, and headed downstairs for breakfast, which was out on their patio.

Wake Up call from our balcony

Breakfast on the patio

As we were having the traditional Moroccan breakfast, we noticed many goats climbing down the steep cliff behind us; at first we thought they were wild goats until we noticed their shepherd also climbing down the cliffside with them

Black spots on the Cliffside are the Goats

and goat-herder

After breakfast and after paying (cash again, no Credit Cards accepted), we started driving back to Bourmaine Dades and then on towards Ouarzazate. Below are some scenes along the way

interesting rock formations called Monkeys fingers

Hard working women, harvesting

Obligatory photo with “Monkey’s fingers”

We saw several minarets like the one below where the large egrets had set up nests; very convenient and safe

We arrived at the sleepy town of Skoura, and had a short break, and checked out some argan oil shops; but the area is better known for production of Roses and Rose products like scents, Rose Water etc etc,

Chatting up the locals

Seems like a popular place for washing and drying carpets

Wonder what’s up there

 

Chickens and vegetables

Shopped out?

Set up shop anywhere

A man and his donkey

Mercedes Bakery

Kasbah Amridil

One of the best-preserved Kasbah’s in Morroco is in Skoura We kept driving to Ouarzazate along a very decent road, and saw a sign for the Sultana Royal Golf course. So, decided to take a detour and check this out. What we found is that there was no golf course, but a number of very large and expensive mansions built here for the rich (including one that the King of Morocco uses), at the edge of a large lake/reservoir. We went to Sultana Royal Golf hotel, and saw a very nice hotel, with elegant grounds and a very nice swimming pool and facilities. There was also a very nice-looking restaurant here, so decide to have a late lunch and chill here. The only golf course around was a mini putt course 🙂

Sultana hotel grounds

Ordered Salads and Pizza’s (all very reasonably priced) and got talking to the waiter who informed us that the lady owner was French, and had owned the reservoir for many years and was selling the water to her neighbors and helped develop the community. The lady was French, and only talked French, so it was hard to communicate with her. The place was immaculate and very well decorated and well taken care of facilities. Turned out she only had 4-6 rooms to rent out; and stayed busy all the time as the wider area around here was quite historically and ruggedly scenic, and so movies were regularly being filmed in the area, and so this place was in high demand by actors wanting to live nicely. There were also film studio’s nearby. Very interesting.

After this nice and refreshing break, we headed to Ouarzazate, passed a largish Movie studio, and headed out to Ait Benhaddou. Ait Benhaddou is a well preserved and best known Ksar in Morocco. Ksar is a term brought by the Arabs to mean a Castle vs a Kasbah which was a settlement. The Ksar is generally larger, and more important than Kasbah’s which are smaller family settlements. Ksar Ait Benhaddou is famous for the film credits is carries; Starting with Lawrence of Arabia, Sodom and Gomorrah, Jesus of Nazareth, and more recently, Gladiator were all filmed here for location. This is just the more famous films filmed here; there are many more lesser known films that were shot here. As a result, this place has been well renovated and preserved, but still lacks electricity and water. There are only ~6 families that live here full time.

Ksar Ait Benhaddou, has an imposing presence here, and commands a view of a huge area around it and so was easily defended being on the hilltop.

After getting lost in this small place, we asked for directions and found the parking lot we needed to park in, and walked a gauntlet of shops, crossed a wide, dry river bed to reach the Ksar.

The Ksar Ait Benhaddou across the river bed

After paying a small fee (to help restore the place), we walked into the Ksar. It was quite impressive inside and below are some views inside

Popular with tourists

Note the donkey inside the doorway

Landscape of Ksar, riverbed, town, and distant mountains. Commanding view

Youthful exuberance

We then went to the Dar El Haja (Dar means small hotel) in the Ksar, which was a very delightfully run place by a family (grandma, daughter and grandson); and had mint tea, and biting’s, on a patio with a beautiful view of the Ksar and town. The family is one of the few permanent residents of the Ksar; getting electricity from the sun (solar) and water from the almost dry river below; and run this small ~8 room hotel. They all loved Indian TV serials, and watch several episodes every night. The Indian movies get dubbed in Arabic, and are popular across the Arab world; many Moroccans certainly loved them and raved about them.

With the delightful owners of Dar El Haja

After this nice visit, we left Ait Benhaddou, and drove to Tisseldai; it was dark now, but we found the hotel we had booked; on top of a cliff high above the town. The hotel was French owned, managed by Moroccan staff, and was very relaxing, with nice wide patios overlooking the (now dark) town below. After a very peaceful sleep, woke up early morning, and had a nice Moroccan breakfast on the patio. There were some women harvesting the crop below us in a field and they were singing away; so we had breakfast with live music 🙂 . Some views of Tisseldai from patio

Scenic landscape

Women harvesting and singing

Tisseldai town

We started driving to Marrakech, and the road was thru the High Atlas Mountains. Below are some scenes along the way

Small town life

School outing

Fertile valleys

Breathtaking views; note the color variations

Lonely

Gaga over the hairpin bends below

Awaiting business in the High Atlas

Could this be my calling?

One is never far from the ever-present mosque

Tajine cooking pots

Shopping day

We finally got to the outskirts of Marrakech after crossing over the High Atlas, and since this is a huge city and since we were going to be inside the old Medina, I called Oussama, our Riad manager, and asked how to get to his place. He suggested I get to Bahia Palace, where there was parking, and where he would meet us. So I put Bahia Palace on the GPS, and I got somewhere, but it did not look like a Palace. So I called Oussama again, and gave him an idea of where I was, but he did not know this place, so I got him to talk to a couple of youths nearby to explain where we were. He told me I was too far away, and in the wrong place. GPS had failed us for the first time in Morocco ☹ . The 2 youths asked us to follow their motorcycle and they would show us the place where we were supposed to go. After quite a long ride through Marrakech, we finally arrived, parked and met Oussama. After some spirited negotiating with the 2 youths, who brought us here, and with the Parking lot attendant, we finally paid $7 and walked with Oussama to Riad Argan.

Marrakech and Essaouira next

This entry was posted in Africa, Morocco, Morocco May 2017

2 thoughts on “Ait Benhaddou, Tisseldai, & onto Marrakech

  • Mohammed Jinnah June 26, 2017 at 7:43 pm Reply

    As usual very informative and great pictures. Brings back a lot of memories as went to the same towns. Did you buy the Rose Water.My mom tells me it is the best she has seen. The factory from where we bought our rose water even made me drink it!!!

    Keep it coming. Always look forward to them.

  • Zubeida June 26, 2017 at 7:44 pm Reply

    Ali-you certainly had a fully packed trip and oh so exciting.
    The choice of words describing places you visited are so well expressed. We actually feel we are trotting along with you.
    I loved the Mercedes Bakery and the grounds of Sultana Hotel were exotic and so inviting.
    I must say, one has to be truly fit to keep up with such an expedition and to keep up with Ali!
    Thanks and take care

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