The Epicurious Wanderers!

Day 11: Ait Benhaddou

We departed the Dades Valley and set off on the Road of a Thousand Kasbahs, the bus ride alternates between quiet conversation and raucous laughter. Our conversation topics are many and varied, although a common theme seems to be regarding our health. A few of the group have been a little unwell, just part of the adventure of new food and varied water sources.

Our first stop is Skoura Oasis, home to several privately owned kasbahs, including the Kasbah Ameridhl, with its extravagant decorations and mud-brick fortifications. As we drive up it’s quite an imposing structure with it’s ancient mud brick walls rising up from the desert. We could the building looking at the many kitchens that served the people who dwelled inside as well as the mosque where prayers were says and children educated.

On arrival in Ait Benhaddou we visited Tawesna – a local teahouse on the river – for a tasty lunch including freshly made Amazigh bread, soup, Moroccan sweets, and of course some mint tea. The standout though is our new favourite dish, Seffa Medfouna, a dish of steamed vermicelli noodles, spiced chicken which is topped with powdered sugar and spices. This shouldn’t work but it’s absolutely divine and will for sure be added to our cooking list at home. This community-run establishment provides women with a small income to support themselves and their children. The women use natural ingredients sourced from local cooperatives to prepare tea and pastries, taking great pride in sharing their stories and giving visitors an authentic Amazigh experience. After lunch we head for out accommodation for the night, Kasbah La Cigogne. It sits outside an old village overlooking the surrounding countryside, it’s a magnificent example of a traditional riad with its indoor courtyard, water features and ornately tiled walls.

After a rest and a bit of down time we then climb back on the bus and head into Ait Benhaddou – a hilltop site almost unchanged since the 11th century. Before we visit though we are shown a cooperative where the women from the region showcase and sell their amazing rugs. I’m really taken with a 4m by 3m rug worth around 20 000MAD, but as Helen is resting back at the Riad I avoid the temptation to buy. The grand kasbah is one of the most beautiful in Morocco and the fortified village is a fine example of clay architecture. You may recognise the site from its long list of film and TV credits, including Lawrence of Arabia, Game of Thrones and Gladiator. In fact at present they are preparing to film Gladiator 2, they are constructing the stadium at the moment where Russell Crowe trained in the original film. They have signs as you pass the construction prohibiting photography. They’re a bit useless though, as soon as you start to climb the hill you get amazing views of the stadium. We then walked through the winding streets of the Old Town, making our way to the top of the hill for some scenic views. It really is breath taking, just another reason Morocco should be in your bucket list.