Many Morocco travel tours are organized for travelers going on Morocco holidays to visit the Ait Benhaddou Palace and other attractions in the kingdom
The Aït Benhaddou palace is a residential fortified city that historians believe was established during the 11th century as a transit point of the Caravans traveling from the deserts of Sudan till the city of Marrakech in the South of Morocco which is nowadays visited by hundreds of tourists who have their in Morocco.
Most of the palace is uninhabited nowadays and the people who used to live in it are now staying in a much more modern community on the other side of the river with only less than 10 families still living inside the palace which welcomes thousands of tourists every year.
The palace has become quite famous all over the world starting from the 70s of the last century when movies directors began shooting their films in this marvelous historical palace. In the same period, the Aït Benhaddou palace has started attracting numerous tourists who go on Morocco tours to visit it and admire its beauty.
Putting in consideration the significant architectural beauty of the Aït Benhaddou Palace, the UNESCO has decided to include it in its human heritage list. Moreover, the Moroccan authorities have added the palace to the list of national monuments adding a number of laws and obligations that the guests who love to have trips to Morocco and visit the palace have to abide to in order to protect and preserve it.
The location of the Aït Benhaddou palace
Aït Benhaddou Palace is located 30 kilometers to the North of the Moroccan city of Ouarzazate. This remarkable site consists mainly of a sandcastle situated inside an almond trees field. The surface area of the palace is around 1300 square meters. Aït Benhaddou Palace overlooks the Ounila Valley that contains a small river called the Wadi Maleh, or the salty valley.
The history of the Aït Benhaddou Palace
The palace, according to the historical information available, was built during the 18th century. However, According to the tales of the people living in the region, and with no accurate sources of information, some sections of the palace, especially the collective store structure which is considered to be the most ancient part of the palace, was erected even before Islam was spread in the area in the 11th century.
It is believed that Amghar Benhaddou, the person that the palace was named after, used to live in the region during the reign of Almoravids dynasty in the 11th century. The palace used to act as a transit point of the trade caravans that used to travel from Sudan to Morocco.
The palace was mentioned in historical records in the 19th century when King Al Hassan I passed by it during his travels between 1893 and 1894.
The Aït Benhaddou Palace remained inhabited until after the period of the independence of Morocco in 1956 when his residences immigrated to the other bank of Wadi Maleh to establish a new residential center.
Although many sections of the Aït Benhaddou Palace have witnessed many periods of neglect and destruction, it still holds historical importance and significance that the palace has gained due to several factors.
The palace was constructed in the 18th century in the village of Aït Benhaddou from which the name of the palace was derived. However some historians assert that the palace was originally built during the reign of the Almoravids dynasty in the 11th century and it was abandoned afterwards for many years.
The description of Aït Benhaddou Palace
The Aït Benhaddou Palace has the look of a residential and architectural assemblage with houses built close to each others fortified over a high plateau. The palace is an old attempt to erect houses in the style similar to the modern residential compounds.
This exact location was precisely chosen for economical reasons to make use of the basin of the valley that runs along the palace and the cultivated lands nearby. The other reason for choosing this exact location was for security causes. As mentioned in historical records, going inside the palace and coming out of it used to occur from two gates only in order to monitor the movements inside and around the palace.
The most important architectural components of the palace, which still stand as evidences of the integration of the elements necessary for living that was added to the palace, include a mosque that was erected near the houses of the palace. This mosque contained fresh water well for the people to use for ablutions in addition to a school teaching Quran and Islamic habits.
The Aït Benhaddou Palace included an assemblage arena that use to host the celebrations of the inhabitants of the palace during family and religious occasions.
Many narrow twisted lanes were paved between the houses of the palace and nowadays these lanes have many shops selling gifts and souvenirs to the tourists who travel to Morocco the palace everyday.
At the top of the plateau where the palace was erected, there is the collective store with the ruins of its fortified walls around it.
Outside the walls of the palace, there is the structure that used to store the crops and the grains collected from the cultivated lands of the people living in the palace.
The private ownership of the inhabitants of the Aït Benhaddou Palace consisted of small houses that were built out of adobe mud bricks. Historical resources have noted that the number of families that used to live in these houses was around 100 in 1940 and this number decreased to reach 90 in the current times.
To the Eastern edge of the Aït Benhaddou Palace, the Wadi Maleh, or the salty valley, is situated and there are many cultivated lands located between the palace and the course of the valley. There are some fruitful trees that were able to adapt to the climate of the region and yield almonds, olives, and dates that the people still enjoy until today.
The evidences of the Moroccan ingenuity throughout the long history of the kingdom are clear in many locations. Therefore, the Moroccan creativity has become quite distinctive having its own school of inspiration.
Besides the traditional Moroccan dresses and robes that have become famous worldwide and the Moroccan style of cooking tasty dishes that are presented to the guests who chose a Morocco tour to spend their vacation, the architectural art of Morocco is considered to be among the most fabulous in Northern Africa and the whole Arab world.
This type of matchless architectural art can be viewed in the many palaces or "Kasbah" that are spread in all the regions of the Moroccan kingdom. These avenues have always played vital economical, social, and cultural roles in the lives of the Moroccans throughout history and now they welcome numerous guests coming for trips in Morocco.
Aït Benhaddou Palace is considered to be one of the most magnificent palaces in the South West of Morocco. Having its own unique style of architecture, the Aït Benhaddou Palace has preserved its beauty for a long time challenging many harsh climate conditions due to the regular restorations work being implemented in the palace every now and then
Away from its history, the Aït Benhaddou Palace has become popular around the world in the 20th century when movie makers and film directors have chosen it to shoot many scenes of famous blockbuster movies including Lawrence of Arabia in 1962, The Man Who Would Be King in 1975, Jesus of Nazareth in 1977, The Jewel of the Nile in 1985, The Last Temptation of Christ in 1988, The Mummy in 1999, Gladiator in 2000, and lastly the Kingdom of Heaven in 2005.
The Aït Benhaddou Palace has undergone extensive restoration and repairs work under the supervision of the Moroccan center of maintenance of the architectural heritage in the Atlas and the South. These operations were able to rescue the architectural components of the lower part of the palace. This is besides many other structures like the mosque of the palace. The towers, interfaces, lanes, and streets of the palace were carefully rebuilt.
The need for ongoing maintenance remains as an urgent need in the Aït Benhaddou Palace considering the number of tourist picking travel packages to Morocco and visiting the palace that is estimated to be around 130 thousand persons every year.
The Aït Benhaddou Palace is a prominent example of a style of construction that represents important periods in the history of mankind. The palace provides scholars with a model of a traditional residential community and a perfect method of how people were able to make use of lands and seas in the construction of their houses reflecting certain cultures and interactions between humans and their environment.
In the beginning of the 90s of the last century, the Moroccan center of maintenance of the architectural heritage in the Atlas and the South has implemented some technical interventions to restore the palace. This project was funded by the Moroccan ministry of cultural affairs and the United Nations Developmental Program in order to enable the palace to host the huge number of guests who visit the palace as part of their Morocco travel tours.
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