Ait Benhaddou. Welcome to the city of Yunkai / Witajcie w mieście Yunkai

There are no less than 1000 kasbah at the foothills of Atlas. Built some 500 years ago, they still stand unchanged despite the time that passed. Only some got the electricity connected, while most of the Berbers continue to live the way their ancestors taught them, working hard to ensure their families got everything they need.

We reach the most famous village in the southern Atlas via a stone footbridge built over a dried river Ounila. When the current is stronger, it might be necessary to get wet. But not today, this place haven’t seen a drop of rain for many weeks now. There are still seven families living in Ait Benhaddou. The rest had already abandoned their homesteads moving to a modern (relatively) city on the other side of the river.

U podnóży Atlasu znajduje się obecnie nieco ponad 1000 kasb. Zbudowane ponad 500 lat temu przetrwały do dziś w niemal niezmienionej formie. Tylko do części z nich doprowadzono elektryczność, a większość Berberów wciąż żyje tak jak nauczyli ich ich przodkowie, ciężką pracą zarabiając na utrzymanie swoich rodzin.

Do najsłynniejszej wioski w południowym Atlasie docieramy po kamiennej kładce przez wyschniętą rzekę Ounila. Gdy nurt jest mocniejszy, koniecznie jest wejście po pas do wody. Ale nie dziś, od wielu tygodni nie spadła tutaj ani kropla deszczu. W Ait Benhaddou mieszka wciąż siedem marokańskich rodzin. Reszta już dawno porzuciła swoje domostwa by przenieść się do nowoczesnego (relatywnie) miasta po drugiej stronie rzeki.

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One of a few “shops” inside the kasbah. You will be pleased to notice that the place has not been commercialized too much. / Jeden z niewielu sklepów wewnątrz kasby. Będziecie mile zaskoczeni faktem, że to miejsce oparło się na razie komercji.

Back in the XVIIth century Ait Benhaddou was one of the many stops on the trade route linking Sudan and Timbuktu with Marrakech. It felt only at the beginning of the XIXth century when the French built a new road through the Tichka mountain pass which resulted in lower transportation costs. Here, inside those massive sandstone walls we find both poor homesteads and the remains of some rich palaces. If we give it more time, we might also be able to seek out a mosque and two cemeteries – a Muslim and a Jewish one. Game of Thrones fans might be interested to know that Ait Benhaddou was used as a model for the city of Yunkai, famous for its slaves trained in mastering the art of love.

Ait Benhaddou był od XVII wieku jednym z wielu punktów na szlaku handlowym łączącym Sudan oraz Timbuktu z Marrakeszem. Podupadł dopiero na początku XIX wieku wraz z budową drogi przez przełęcz Tichka przez Francuzów co spowodowało, że transport towarów dawną trasą stał się nieopłacalny. Tutaj, wewnątrz masywnych murów z piaskowca znajdziemy zarówno ubogie domostwa jak i pozostałości bogatych pałaców. Gdy spędzimy tu trochę więcej czasu uda nam się odszukać również meczet oraz dwa cmentarze – muzułmański oraz żydowski. Fanów Gry o Tron z pewnością zainteresuje fakt, że Ait Benhaddou odegrało w słynnym serialu rolę miasta Yunkai – słynącego z niewolników szkolonych w sztuce miłości.

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I was sure there had been a river there! / Byłem pewny, że tam była rzeka!

Wandering through the kasbah, there is much we can learn about the wisdom and knowledge of its builders. Ait Benhaddou was an important trade stop hence it was most certainly often subject of attacks from the surrounding tribes and hostile powers. The labyrinth of corridors was to ensure that the coordinated attack was nearly impossible. Disoriented armies would get lost inside, retreating in panic. Buildings did not have any windows while the entrances to homes were kept dark. Thanks to this smart design the attackers could be easily surprised before their eyes could get use to the lack of light.

Spacerując po wnętrzach kasby można dowiedzieć się dużo o mądrości i wiedzy jej budowniczych. Ait Benhaddou jako ważny ośrodek handlowy był zapewne częstym obiektem ataków ze strony okolicznych plemion oraz wrogich armii. Labirynt korytarzy miał spowodować, że skoordynowany atak stawał się niemożliwy. Zdezorientowane armie gubiły się i w panice zaczynały odwrót. Budynki nie miały okien, a wejścia do domów spowijała ciemność. Dzięki temu można było zaskoczyć atakujących zanim ich oczy zdążyłyby przyzwyczaić się do braku światła.

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Ever built sand castles on a beach? / Budowaliście kiedyś zamki z piasku na plaży?

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Here it is, our first selfie in Morocco! / Nasze pierwsze selfie w Maroku!

***

Ait Benhaddou is a postcard pretty sight and a fabulous idea for a whole day trip from Marrakech (preferably together with Telouet). The entrance to the kasbah is theoretically free, though be prepared to buy a “ticket” from the resourceful dwellers of the nearby town.

Since 1987 Ait Benhaddou is listed in the UNESCO World Heritage List. On the dedicated page, you will find an entire gallery of beautiful photos.

***

Ait Benhaddou to miejsce jak z widokówki i dobry pomysł na całodzienną wycieczkę (połączoną z Telouet) z Marrakeszu. Wejście do kasby jest teoretycznie darmowe, ale w praktyce liczcie się z “biletem”, który trzeba będzie nabyć u obrotnych mieszkańców pobliskiej osady.

Ait Benhaddou znajduje się od 1987 roku na Liście Światowego Dziedzictwa UNESCO. Na ich stronie znajdziecie całą galerię pięknych zdjęć.

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63 thoughts on “Ait Benhaddou. Welcome to the city of Yunkai / Witajcie w mieście Yunkai

    1. Forgive my English ;) Not sure what is the difference between red clay and sandstone. I read it’s the latter when studying the kasbah. Thanks, this must have been our only Moroccan selfie ;)

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks Petra :-)
      Sure, we have always rented from Europcar and it never disappointed us. First – it’s cheaper than any other global network like Avis or Sixt, second – 50% of our rentals resulted in a free upgrade ;), third – they never charged us for anything extra, but then again – I do take photos of the car before I drive away and make sure that the stuff sees it :-) We do always drive back to the station, rather than leaving the car say.. next to the hotel, like some people do. Cheers!

      Liked by 3 people

    1. I figured that everyone out there is watching (or at least heard of) Game of Thrones, so I thought this might be a fun fact!
      That’s a nice thing you said – indeed, the city looks like it grew from the ground, so natural!

      Liked by 2 people

  1. I do love a more ‘busy’ life, Maciek. Although life in the Kasbah now seems peaceful and quiet, it must have been quite distressing to live there in its ‘heyday’.
    ‘hence it was most certainly often subject of attacks from the surrounding tribes and hostile powers’
    The price of power, I suspect.
    The selfie is gorgeous! Hello to Aga.. :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aga says hi :) I cannot really get her to write a guest post, she writes her own blog about gardening…
      You are absolutely right, the Arabian lands were much more “busy” than Europe itself back in the days.. wealth, power and influence.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Incredibly nice! I have been to Morocco but not so much inland. I enjoyed it very much. It seems there is much more to discover. I haver ead this was a day tripo from Marrakech. Have you been to other places like Rabat and Casablanca?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Roberto! We were fascinated by the possibilities Morocco gives, it was hard to choose all the places we wanted to see. We have been to Rabat and Casa (wrote about them couple of months ago). I enjoyed Rabat, Casablanca a bit less, but then I haven’t spend much time there. What was your favorite place in Morocco?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I visited Rabat, Casablanca and Marrakech. And thought I enjoyed more Rabat and Marrakech, Casablanca was worth just because of the Mosque and the French Architecture from the times of the Protectorate. Good combination. I wrote two posts about Rabat and Casablanca too. I will check yours. We can share our thoughts on each other’s post then😉

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Your captions are always fascinating to read. I have been to Morocco in the past and visited lots of these kasbah too. It’s a country I really love and when I read your post, it gives me the urge to go back. And the photos, well, you already know what I think. Bravo.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Very grateful for that!
      Since you visited Morocco, feel free to correct whatever mistakes I make in my posts. I am huge fan of the country but obviously not the expert ;)
      Good to hear that the posts bring back memories!

      Like

  4. I totally agree with ‘different world’ and ‘another planet’. I’m really enjoying your accounts of this less-publicized region. I’m a great GoT fan and when I saw Yunkai in the title I wondered, hmmm.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I had no idea GoT was also filmed in Morocco before I went to the Atlas Studios and Ait Benhaddou. Only found it out when I got home. But seeing it, I am not surprised they chose this location!

      Like

  5. Niesamowite miejsce, jakby zespolone ze skałą. Albo wypączkowujące z jej wnętrza. I tyle lat przetrwało. Oj, pojechałoby się na taką odkrywczą wycieczkę, jak wasza. Tylko córka musi trochę podrosnąć. PS. Ładna z was para :)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dziękujemy bardzo :) Z córeczką to też może być wspaniała przygoda – czasem trzeba tylko dostosować atrakcje ;) Ale myślę, że w Maroku też by się coś dla młodej znalazło!

      Liked by 1 person

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