A magical  place

At the gates of the Sahara desert, is the impressive ksar, which means fortified town, of Ait Ben Haddou, the most representative and photographed in Morocco.

Walking through its labyrinthine alleys is like traveling back in time, when trans-Saharan caravans of 1000 years ago transported gold, silver and slaves between Sudan and the imperial city of Marrakech. The legend says that Ben Haddou was a Berber warrior who came to dominate part of the southern Atlas and that he lies under the ksar, founded in the 17th century.

All this magical setting on a hill on the banks of the Ounila River, has been the perfect place for numerous historical-type film productions.

Entirely built of stone, adobe and wood, it has preserved its authenticity, which is why it was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987.

Within its walls the lives of thousands of people passed, it had multi-story residences, a public square, a mosque, accomoodation for caravan traders, a grain tank and two cemeteries, one Muslim and one Jewish.

Today a few families still remain, although most of them went to the new village on the other side of the river, where due to the increasing influx of tourists and the film industry, there are numerous riads, hotels, cafes, handicraft shops and carpet factories.

During the visit of Ait Ben Haddou, its inhabitants will come out to invite the visitors to see the houses and part of the props that they have been used in some of the famous films, it is no need to say that this industry has helped the economy a lot of its inhabitants.

Games of Thrones fans will be delighted to learn that here Daenerys Targaryen conquers the city of Yunkai and frees the slaves. But it was also the place where Russell Crowe was sold as a slave in Gladiator.

Also have been shot Lawrence of Arabia, Cleopatra, Marco Polo, Jesus of Nazareth, The Jewel of the Nile, The Last Temptation of Christ, The Mummy, Alexander, Prince of Persia, Son of God as the list goes on. In addition, Ourzazate, 30 km away, is where the Atlas Film Studios are located, called "the Hollywood of the desert" and the center of the Moroccan film industry.

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