Ksar Aït Ben Haddou – the gingerbread adventure

I felt tired, not interested, dreaming about a bed, in which I could actually sleep, not surrounded by loud snoring of others and not listening to the wind violently jerking the Berber’s tent. My night at the desert was uncomfortable sleepless, my butt felt sore and I could not think or imagine a place where the sand was not getting into. After spending one day in the car to get to Zagora, hoping all the way to arrive in one piece, desperately holding my suitcase while riding on a camel and trying to remove my contact lenses without getting sand in my eyes, I was not up for doing anything. But since I was not planning on coming back here, I dragged my sorry ass out of the car and went for a walk with our little group.

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At first I have not even noticed what we all supposed to look at. My tired eyes registered a brown hill and a dying riverbed below. The water was slowly disappearing, dissolving in the hot air, creating small islands in the middle of the riverbed. Few sacks, filled with sand, formed a bridge we took to get to the other side. I removed my sunglasses and looked around. I focused and finally noticed why the hill seemed a little bit strange to me. There was a city growing on its site, climbing at its back, bursting into its flesh and slowly dominating it. That was Ksar Aït Ben Haddou – the city made of clay.

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The clay parasite growing on the hill was magical. From the distance it looked unreal, like a creation made by a kid, or perhaps a giant honey-cake baked by a crazy baker. The complex was made out of uneven bricks, put together to form a messy gathering of houses and walls. On a side a huge arch connecting two towers, a wall leading to another tower, gingerbread baked in the hot African sun.

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The houses sprung up the hill like mushrooms, inviting visitors to wander between their cool walls. The buildings connected by a tangled network of small passages. The only way was up, so we started climbing. Each passage was a new discovery. Surrounded by debris of old bricks, crumbs of the houses and walls, I climbed the hill. I turned my head to look at what was left behind on every opportunity, as the view slowly revealing below was simply stunning.

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The list of movies the Ksar Aït Ben Haddou was featured in is a long one. When you enter the ksar, you can see the list and a few pictures attached to the wall. You can easily spot the once you have seen, like The Mummy (1999), Gladiator (2000), Alexander (2004) or Prince of Persia (2010). You will see the photo from Game of Thrones, with Daenerys Targaryen, surrounded by the crowd.

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Luckily for Aït Ben Haddou it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987, protected and repaired by locals all year round. After all the clay used to build it is not the most durable material on Earth and in order to keep that place in the best shape possible, constant improvement works are needed.

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At the top I discovered a lonely tower. I walked around, not quite sure from where the best view could be captured by my eager camera. All the tiredness, stress and the lack of sleep were washed away by the view from the top. The gingerbread adventure fed my body and soul. Seeing amazing was simply enough for me to make me feel well again.

 Aït Benhaddou

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