After Marrakech, our next destination with the Art of seeing Photography workshop was Ksar Aït Ben Haddou. The journey over the Tizi n’Tichka mountain pass of the Atlas mountains, connecting Marrakech to the south of Morocco, was fascinating, tiring and hot as the vehicles didn’t have air conditioners (at 35-40C)! We arrived at Aït Ben Haddou at 6 p.m. – just before sunset. Peter Sanders– the photographer leading this workshop – suggested to check-in, freshen up quickly, grab the cameras and seize the moment of the light just before sunset to take photographs of this picturesque place.
The ksar (citadel), a group of earthen buildings surrounded by high walls, is a traditional pre-Saharan habitat. The houses crowd together within the defensive walls, which are reinforced by corner towers. Ait-Ben-Haddou, in Ouarzazate province, is a striking example of the architecture of southern Morocco.
A few more facts in short:
- The ksar is mainly a collective grouping of dwellings. Inside the defensive walls which are reinforced by angle towers and pierced with a baffle gate, houses crowd together – some modest, others resembling small urban castles with their high angle towers and upper sections decorated with motifs in clay brick – but there are also buildings and community areas.
- The oldest constructions do not appear to be earlier than the 17th century
- The community areas of the ksar include a mosque, a public square, grain threshing areas outside the ramparts, a fortification and a loft at the top of the village, an caravanserai, two cemeteries (Muslim and Jewish) and the Sanctuary of the Saint Sidi Ali or Amer.
The Kasbahs take damage with each rainstorm. Most of the town’s inhabitants now live in a more modern village at the other side of the Ounila river; however, eight families still live within the ksar.
After a few shots we witnessed one of the most beautiful sunsets
For the sake of getting a good light at the golden hour (after sunrise and before sunset) and with the secret agenda not to have those shopkeepers yelling at our group “from India”, “from Turkey” etc. I thought loud, that I will come again after sunrise to this place. This idea was caught up like a snowball and ended up in a sunrise photo expedition of Ait Ben Haddou!
Tip: It is advised to have good shoes (e.g. sneakers) and comfortable clothes to walk and hike up to the top. It can get chilly in the night and early morning, even if at daytime it is 40C! A shawl or jacket is advisable.
Not only did we get all the time and space to wait for those “right” moments (the basic lesson of this photography workshop) to take our photographs, but also we had the luxury of having this place almost all to ourselves in the morning hours. Around 10 a.m. tourist buses started arriving and we left to have breakfast.
To get there: Organise a private tour by car. To my knowledge, there is no public transport.
A special tip: Have your dinner under the sky and post dinner enjoy an unforgettable star gazing!
Culinary tip: Tagines – Chicken, Meat or Vegetarian varieties or Couscous. To drink: mint tea (can be very sweet!!), water, fresh pressed orange juice (one of the most delicious at all).
A note of caution: If you order lemon juice, you will be surprised being served orange juice! Why they call it lemon juice, I still need to figure out. Or do you know?
Varia: What is the link to Ibn Battuta, you may ask? Ibn Battuta was a Berber, from Tanger, south Morocco.