Located in Morocco just south of Marrakesh, is the Kasbah of Ait Benhaddou in Ouarzazate. This ancient fortified city — known as a ksar (castle) is made of mud bricks and clings to the foothills along the Ounila River. A settlement of the Berber peoples since ancient times, Ait Benhaddou is a UNESCO world heritage site that attracts travelers from all over the world.
Ait Benhaddou Map and Terrain
For hundreds of years, Ait Benhaddou has been a stop on the Marrakesh-Ouarzazate caravan route that traverses the Sahara Desert. If you look at the Ait Benhaddou terrain map above, you can see that Ait Benhaddou is the last stop on the trail to Marrakesh before you enter the steep and rugged canyons that lead to the Northern Sahara Plateau and finally to Marrakesh and the Marrakesh Market.
Though it is located in the Southern reaches of the Sahara Desert, the area of Ouarzazate is a particularly wet area of Africa, with a rushing river nearby giving birth to this oasis fortress. Though the water brings life into Ait Benhaddou, the rainstorms are constantly eroding the red mud-brick walls of the city, requiring constant maintenance to preserve the walled city.
The city began as a kasbah or a ksar, meaning that the richest of the residents in the area pooled together hundreds of years ago and built their homes in close quarters with high mud-brick walls and towers to protect themselves against invaders or marauders that might attack from out of the desert.
Again, the rains and the winds are constantly bearing down on the red brick walls of Ait Benhaddou and eroding the city away with each day. The city is constantly having to be maintained and rebuilt. What you see today is the latest incarnation of Ait Benhaddou that was built in the 16th Century. Though a fairly-recently built ksar, it is one of the oldest existing kasbahs in all of Africa and the world.