Travelling beyond Marrakech, even for a day, allows for a deeper understanding of the diverse and captivating southern Morocco. Embarking on a tour to Kasbahs Telouet and Ait Ben Haddou near Ouarzazate provides a fascinating glimpse into the rich historical and cultural heritage of the Berber people.
You will traverse the Tizi-n-Tichka Pass, which offers breathtaking views at every turn. Along the majestic Atlas Mountains, you will encounter Berber villages nestled on slopes and in valleys, showcasing how life thrives in this terrain through fields and gardens.
The UNESCO World Heritage sites of Kasbah Aït Ben Haddou and Kasbah Telouet exemplify multi-generational dwellings. As you descend the Ounila Valley, you will also come across numerous humble and smaller Berber houses while driving between the two Kasbahs, further immersing yourself in the local surroundings.
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Morning departure at 08:30 from your riad or hotel in Marrakech, venturing south on your day trip from Marrakech to Kasbah Ait Ben Hadou and Telouet. The trip takes you across the chain of the High Atlas Mountains and over the famous Tizi-n-Tichka pass, one of the most dramatic passes in Morocco and the highest in the whole of Africa at 2260 m.
All along the road, you will see scattered Berber villages along the mountainous terrain, blending almost seamlessly with the surrounding mountains. As you reach the far side of the mountains, the landscape changes drastically, transitioning into a semi-arid and desert-like environment. This shift occurs due to the Atlas mountain range serving as a barrier, separating the Mediterranean climate of the north from the dry desert winds in the southeast.
After the Tizi-n-Tichka pass, a side road leads to Kasbah Telouet, which used to be the palatial residence of the Lords of the Atlas, the Glaoui Family. Although the Kasbah now stands in ruins after the last Pasha fled Morocco following the departure of the French in 1956, wait to be pleasantly surprised by the architectural marvel of this historic home. The tiled walls, fluted pillars, beautifully painted wooden ceilings and coloured glass windows of the reception rooms allow you to imagine what it was like in its prime.
The journey takes you further south along the Ounila Valley, where vibrant fields and gardens lie below, following the winding roads. The varied colours of the rocks and soil, along with the Berber villages, gardens, and smaller Kasbahs, will astonish you. Olive, almond, and fruit trees thrive here and serve as the primary source of livelihood for numerous families.
You arrive in time for lunch at one of the restaurants overlooking the Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou. In the afternoon, you will explore the Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou. It is the most famous kasbah in Morocco, largely due to its appearance in many Hollywood movies. The Kasbah is also one of Morocco’s nine UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Once in the village, you will get a closer look at the Kasbah’s architecture with turrets on all the buildings, adorned with grilled windows and soft peach-coloured walls. These traditional houses are made of adobe, highly suitable for the climate conditions of the south and the summits of the mountains because it is an efficient temperature isolator and the building materials are abundant and require no transportation or significant transformation process.
It was one of the most important fortress strongholds on the old Salt Road caravan routes, where traders brought slaves, gold, and salt from sub-Saharan Africa to Marrakech and beyond. Before leaving Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou, you will take one last glimpse of the village from a distant point offering a wonderful panoramic view, especially under clear blue skies.