High Atlas and the Ait Ben Haddou Kasbah

We left Marrakech in a light drizzle which followed us into the High Atlas Mountains.

Drizzle turned to light snow on the ground and then as we descended into glorious sunshine and warmth following the approximate path of the camel caravans of old which took weeks to move from beyond the Sahara through to Fez and Marrakesh. A journey we will make in less than 24 hrs. Salt was a huge export of Morocco. Slaves, marble and gold moved north.  Rocks here date from over 500 million years ago – deformations and bedding show evidence of intense pressure and stress over the millennia.

Red sandstone is the predominant rock type – Berber villages seem to meld into the hillsides. Villages follow the road which traces the route of the Caravans and the Wadi (river) supporting fields of vegetables, fruits and olives.

Climate change is making serious inroads here as many villages are being deserted as a result of the continuing desertification.  Following a drive along what has been included in the 12 most dangerous highways in the world we arrived at Ait Ben Haddou  a UNESCO heritage site.

Kasbah’s are not an invention of a Bill Murray movie but are fortresses which in the past served the same function as a medieval castle in England. The kasbah was the defence for the areas surrounding it and in times of trouble a refuge for people living outside it walls. Ait Ben Haddou Kasbah was a fortress and stopping point along the caravan route from the Sahara to Morocco and is a lovely example of Moroccan clay architecture.

Rock the Kasbah refers to ascending the fortress and taking it over at its highest point. We did that today in close to 60 Kmh sand filled winds which blew some of us over, exfoliating faces and any exposed flesh in the process. A couple of brave souls ventured out in the wind to take our victory photo.

For those of you who are Game of Thrones or Gladiator fans you may recognize some of the locations 🙂 Other films shot here include Kingdom of Heaven, Babel and Lawrence of Arabia. It was an experience walking where some of my favourite actors over the years have walked before me. 

After a visit to a Berber carpet factory we headed back to our high desert hotel and enjoyed a traditional Moroccan meal.

We leave early tomorrow for the Sahara and our tented camp. 

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