Aït Benhaddou

Aït Benhaddou is a fortified city along the former caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech in present-day Morocco. It is situated in Souss-Massa-Draâ on a hill along the Ouarzazate River and has some beautiful examples of kasbahs. Most of the town’s inhabitants now live in a more modern village at the other side of the river; ten families however still live within the kasbah.

Aït Benhaddou is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and several films have been shot there, including; Gladiator, The Mummy, Alexander, The Living Daylights (Timothy Dalton’s first James Bond), and Lawrence of Arabia.

Aït Benhaddou contains some of the best preserved kasbahs that I have seen. It is easy to see why they film so many movies there. Atlas Studios, the Moroccan Hollywood headquarters is located near the site which makes it very accessible to movie shoots. The scenery is stellar and there is a large open landscape to temporarily build props for films. If you remember in Gladiator, they built the arena that Maximus had to fight in when he was first picked up as a slave. It was situated right at the base of Aït Benhaddou where you see all these rocks in the picture.

Strolling through the kasbah, you can hang out with the families that still live in Aït Benhaddou. They will offer you tea and invite you into their house. They will ask for a small dirham donation which is nothing. There are also several artists selling their goods. In fact, I actually bought a painting on Aït Benhaddou painted by a local artist names Abdellah. It was not fun carrying the painting around the rest of the trip but it was really cool. Strange for me because I never buy anything.

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  1. I remember that from Gladiator. Thats cool.

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