The Morocco Diaries, Part 6 of 10: Conquering the High Atlas Mountains

October 22, 2018
The Morocco Diaries, Part 6 of 10: Ksar Ait Benhaddou, The High Atlas Mountains, and Ourzazate by Posh, Broke, & Bored



Of Hollywood studios, Game of Thrones, and the highest point in Morocco...

THE MOROCCO DIARIES, PART 6 of 10: THE HIGH ATLAS MOUNTAINS

So far, it felt like an inordinate portion of my Morocco trip had been dominated by the High Atlas Mountains. This would be the final leg of my journey through the mountains. Take a good look before we say goodbye to them...

MUCH MOROCCO

The Morocco Diaries, Part 6 of 10: Ksar Ait Benhaddou, The High Atlas Mountains, and Ourzazate by Posh, Broke, & Bored

The Morocco Diaries, Part 6 of 10: Ksar Ait Benhaddou, The High Atlas Mountains, and Ourzazate by Posh, Broke, & Bored

KSAR AIT BENHADDOU

It was going to be a long drive to Marrakech, so curiosity had to be sacrificed for efficiency. Fortunately, I’m not crazy for Game of Thrones so I didn’t feel the urge to get up close with Ksar Ait Benhaddou, the filming location of the slave-trading city of Yunkai that Daenerys Targaryen laid siege to. 

Ait Benhaddou is a ksar (a fortified town) built into the side of a hill. Since its inception in the 6th century, the residents have enjoyed a roaring trade due to their strategic location on along the caravan route between the Sahara and Marrakech. For that reason, Ait Benhaddou is built to be defended: with outside walls of mud and clay reinforced with corner towers as the first layer of defense. Marauders who breach the outer walls would be met with steep, narrow pathways that wind around each other. If and when the invaders finally make their way out of the maze, the residents would have retreated to the fortress at the top of the hill. Thankfully, these days Ait Benhaddou is a lot more welcoming to outsiders. Ait Benhaddou has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987 for being one of the best examples of Southern Moroccan earthen clay architecture.



The Morocco Diaries, Part 6 of 10: Ksar Ait Benhaddou, The High Atlas Mountains, and Ourzazate by Posh, Broke, & Bored



OURZAZATE

South of the High Atlas Mountains is Ourzazate (pronounced Wah-zah-zahd), a city with many nicknames. “The Calm” and “The Door Of The Desert”, for starters. Ourzazate is also “The Hollywood of Morocco”, with a list of films and TV shows to its credit as prolific as its list of nicknames. Ourzazate is one of, if not the most popular film-making destinations in the region. Nearly half of the films shot in Morocco are made in Ourzazate. The trend took of when Atlas Studios opened in 1983 to host the Michael Douglas classic The Jewel of the Nile. Since then, more than 200 TV shows and films have been shot there; including Babel, Lawrence of Arabia, The Mummy, Gladiator, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Ourzazate is the place big foreign productions go to for a Middle Eastern backdrop; for its relatively cheap price tag and safety.

A lesser-known export of Ourzazate s renewable energy, thanks to the Ouarzazate Solar Power Station, also called Noor (Arabic for light) Power Station. The Noor Power Station’s next goal is to provide sufficient electricity for 8 hours after nightfall, and their long term objective is to supply renewable energy to Southern Europe. From the lights of Hollywood to lighting the way toward renewable energy, may Ourzazate' s future shine every bright.









TIZI N’TICHKA

Driving through the High Atlas Mountains felt like a lifetime, what with the extremely narrow and winding roads. Numerous shops selling minerals and fossils, women’s cooperatives selling argan oil products, trees laden with apples, dates, and walnuts clung on dangerous to the edge of the soaring mountains, as though their precarious position were but a mudane fact of life. My journey through the High Atlas Mountains peaked at Tizi N’Tichka

Tizi N’Tichka links the mountain range to the Southeast of Marrakesh. It was surreal to think that this gateway to the Sahara Desert often receives snow from November through March. At 2,260 metres above sea level, it’s the highest road of the High Atlas Mountains. In hindsight, it was incredibly dangerous and foolhardy of me to clamber onto and sit on the edge of a slippery cliff for a better look. My only excuse? “I was high...”



The Morocco Diaries, Part 6 of 10: Ksar Ait Benhaddou, The High Atlas Mountains, and Ourzazate by Posh, Broke, & Bored

In my journey through the High Atlas Mountains, I had reached the highest road in Morocco. 
Yet my journey had far from peaked. Stay tuned for the story you’ve all been waiting for - Marrakech.

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