We took the local bus into the centre of Ouazazate and made our way to the souk, we were disappointed to find very few stalls open, in fact it seemed that only the butcher’s were open. We did find one small shop open selling typical Moroccan arts, crafts and souvenirs. Niki was keen to buy a few things for friends and family, the prices were very reasonable and she managed to get most of what she wanted. I bought a new tajine, which will be great for making tasty meals while on the road. We came to a large square with four restaurants along one side, all next door to one another, there was lots of light hearted rivalry with each restaurant having someone trying to encourage passersby to stop and eat. Joining in with the fun, and with the restaurants all having outside tables almost touching one another we decided that Niki and I would eat at one restaurant and Gillian & Godfredo would eat next door, we were in fact sitting next to one another. The food was very tasty and reasonably priced, we all agreed it was well worth stopping. After buying a few more souvenirs and topping up the cash reserves from the ATM machine we took the bus back to the campsite and relaxed in the sunshine for awhile before having a simple supper. We had enjoyed our day in Ouazazate, but with time passing quickly and Niki only having a few more days with us we wanted pack in as much as we could in the time left.
Gillian wanted to visit Ait Benhaddou, a World Heritage Site, some forty kilometres closer to Marrakech. We picked up a flyer for a campsite only ten kilometres from this popular tourist spot. Leaving the Ouazazate campsite we once again stopped in the centre where Gillian & Godfredo bought a few more presents for friends back home. We had our usual morning coffee in one of the cafe’s lining the main street, then wandered around for an hour through the shops and stalls of the souk which was fully open.
On the outskirts of Ouazazate we stopped to visit the Atlas film studio's. For a small entry fee we were given a guided tour of the complex where many major films have been made. The film industry has given the city a major boost. With it's pleasant climate throughout the year, beautiful natural scenery, a number of different sites and attractive adobe buildings, Ouazazate attracted some of the biggest directors in the business. By 1949 Morocco had already been the venue for the making of Orson Welle's "Orthello". Years later David Lean directed scenes for "Lawrence of Arabia". The film studio's have been used consistently since then to produce a huge number of films, which include "Tea in the Sahara", "kundun", "Black Hawk Down", "The Mummy", "Alexander" and "Babel". Brad Pitt has been filmed there on more than one occasion, one of which was the making of the film "Seven Years in Tibet".
The drive from Ouazazate to our campsite near Ait Benhaddou was only about 30 kilometres, a short drive, but beautiful with stunning scenery that looked out onto the mountains of the High Atlas, covered in snow.
The L’Escale campsite is a small site owned and run by a French couple. The facilities, clean and well kept, were housed in a newly constructed block. The site had small restaurant serving Moroccan dishes, which also served as a lounge area with WiFi access. The weather was perfect and we decided to stay for a couple of days at least.
From the campsite we drove the 10 kilometres to Ait Benhaddou. Having parked up we had a coffee in one of the many cafe’s that serve the hordes of tourist’s that visit this historical site. From the cafe we walked across the wadi to the entrance to the World Heritage site, paying our €1 each entrance fee, We made our way through the maze of alleyways and passages, up steep rocky slopes to the high point of the town. The views over the surrounding countryside were stunning.
Ait Benhaddou along with Ouazazate is a top Hollywood film spot. It’s abode houses and tall towers embellished with diamond shapes have been immortalised in such popular films as “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Jewel of the Nile”, it’s certainly well worth a visit, especially at sunrise or sunset. An early morning visit is probably best, as the tourist buses don’t start arriving until mid to late morning.
It seems I've been travelling for most of my life.
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