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Ouarzazate and Ait Benhaddou: A Hollywood favourite

Posted by daveb on March 23rd, 2008

Following a five hour bus journey from Marrakesh we found ourselves in Ouarzazate, a refreshingly laid back town when compared with our former location. I had caught a fairly strong headcold in the mountains and so this place served as a useful rest-stop for a few days. Squiffy lead me straight to a Lonely Planet-listed budget hotel for the princely sum of £8/night — and it wasn’t at all bad for our purposes, I must say (although, it goes without saying that I wouldn’t put my dear mother in there!).

Thirty-two kilometres away lies the impressive ancient kasbah (fortress) of Ait Benhaddou, the setting used in many Hollywood films including Lawrence of Arabia and, more recently, Gladiator. In the absence of a bus, to get to the kasbah we had our first taste of collectif grande taxis: Basically a old, beaten-up, six- or seven-seater Mercedes in which you buy a seat to a particular destination and share the cost with other people going roughly in the same direction. A great idea in theory, but in practice it’s an absolute minefield for wet tourists like us. Happily, a shopkeeper from the kasbah took us under his wing, showed us the ropes and kept the drivers honest. Of course, by the time we got to the kasbah we felt obliged to visit his shop and in all fairness to the bloke, he didn’t try to sell us a single thing. Sad really: This was the probably first genuine merchant that engaged with us and we were suspicious of his apparent generousity right up until we left his shop empty-handed and under no pressure to buy anything. We felt heartened that not everyone in this country wanted to take our money.

Soon after we got to the top of the kasbah, a quite-wicked sandstorm blew-up, whipping our faces with sand and so we dashed out of the site and squished into some more grande taxis to take us back to the town. All night, I kept removing bits of the desert from my head. (It took Squiffy three facial-cleansing pads–front and back–before she lost her orange glow.)


Comment from Sista
Time: March 24, 2008, 7:05 pm

Hi both,

SQ – don’t know how much attention you are attracting on the dodgy man front but I find that donning a headscarf usually means more respect and less hassle.

Plus it puts pay to bad hair days.

All my love – and the photos of Wavey trekking through Berber villages nearly killed me. How the boy has left the Port far behind him….


Comment from Kathryn
Time: March 26, 2008, 3:28 pm

Hey! This is more like it. Can’t believe Dave suggested the two day trek, but it looks amazing. Am very jealous – really want to go back to Marrakesh after seeing all your photos and I loved the mint tea!
Hope you’re not laden with too many carpets, lanterns etc. Take care. K

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