You’d be right in thinking this spectacular red clay fortified village looks familiar—it’s been used in countless Hollywood films including Gladiator, The Bourne Ultimatum, The Living Daylights, Lawrence of Arabia, and The Jewel of the Nile to name a few, as well as the Game of Thrones TV series. The walk to the summit, along winding narrow streets, takes about 15 minutes and is worth it for the views, even if you have to lug motorcycle gear.
Ait Benhaddou lies at the heart of a former trading route between the Sahara and Marrakesh. It was a major stop for camel caravans carrying salt through the Sahara and returning with gold, silver and slaves. In its heyday, it had thousands of inhabitants, replete with fortified towers and reinforced walls—with guards atop watchtowers. These days most locals, who make a living from the tourist trade, live in more modern homes on the other side of the “wadi”, or valley/riverbed (usually dry, except in winter and spring). Medicines are in scarce supply in this part of the world, so don’t be surprised if you’re asked for antibiotics in preference for money.
The ride to this 1000-year-old village takes you through landscapes resembling the Grand Canyon in the United States—with stretches of straights and long sweepers surrounded by deserted red rock formations.
The Atlas film studios in Ouarzazate (open-for-tourists) are nearby, but you’ll need lots of dosh and paperwork if you want to follow in Jeremy Clarkson’s/Grand Tour’s footsteps by doing wheelies and burnouts among the sets of Egyptian palaces and crocodile-head sphinxes.