Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ait Benhaddou and Telouet

So I don't know about you, but I'm about ready to be done with this portion of the Morocco trip. Fascinating it was, but the palette is somewhat unvaried. I'm ready for some seaside colors! So, this is it for kasbahs, but these are the best ones :-) The one above, believe it or not, isn't even a famous one. It's "just another kasbah" at the side of the road. Ha ha! I mean, geez. Stop showing off, Morocco.

This one, though, is the big daddy. It's Ait Benhaddou, and it's a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is perhaps most famous for Gladiator having been partly filmed here (and tons of other movies). It's big and wander-able, an entire mud city on a hill, still inhabited.

Zowie. Yeah?

{more below}

As dramatic as it is, however, we liked Telouet better, and the drive between the two (the back way, through the Ounila Valley), is not to be missed. Hills like colored sand glass art, and villages that blend with the mountains, each with a single white minaret standing out against the red earth. Twisting roads, a bit of white-knucklage, but so lovely.

Telouet. I don't think there's any international aid here, and it's really falling apart.

Such a pity. I though it was the most beautiful. For one thing, it's the highest in the mountains, and since its in more of a rainfall zone, it's built of stone, not just mud. 

But the major distinction is that its interior is embellished.

Zelij (mosaic), plaster, carved wood, fabric panels, wrought iron. Gorgeous.

And completely falling apart. Sigh.

The views are magnificent.

The locals charming. 

Did a little carpet-shopping.

Which Clementine adores. She liked to flop down on each one as it was spread open and test it.

Both kasbahs are within easy distance of Marrakesh -- a few hours in each direction. A really nice trip, if you don't have time to delve deeper into the south but would like some variation on a short Marrakesh trip, would be this: 

Rent a car (the roads are fine, don't worry, and there aren't a lot of them, so getting lost isn't a big worry) and leave early. Drive to Telouet, then through the Ounila Valley to Ait Benhaddou, for a full day of kasbah-seeing. Spend the night at I Rocha Guesthouse, and head back to Marrakesh in the morning. I Rocha on the main road not too far from the Ait Benhaddou turn-off, and it's great. Rustic sophistication, a high cut above everywhere else we stayed on our excursion.

The terrace has views of the village, Tisselday.

Look! We saw more of those folk art animals like at Douar Samra. The mystery continued: where did they come from, and would we be able to find any to buy? 

Our guide Mohammed told us with some measure of authority that they are made by the children of the area. Wrong. So wrong. He was totally making that up, we discovered only later, and had to wonder what else he had invented off the top of his head. Ha.

(Tune in next time. Perhaps the mystery of the folk animals will be solved :-)

There's a cool pool at I Rocha, and the food is terrific. 
We took dinner in our room again, with Clementine sleeping.

Also, it was a rare treat to get wine, which is not widely available in Muslim countries.


Next up: Essaouira! Yay, ocean! Fishes and swimming and blue doors!


tone almhjell said...

This made me want to rush down there and save that kasbah. Ha. As if polishing a tile or two would do any good.

The tiles are like our kitchen tiles, which our landlady brought with her from Morocco. Except of course they only cover a small portion of the big white wall, and that's quite different from *everywhere*. I think it's so beautiful done like that, mosaics adorning everything you see.

Laini Taylor said...

I know, I really want to save Telouet! The best I can do is inhabit it with characters :-) Writey writey.

And wonderful to have zelij in your kitchen! Moroccans are so spoiled for amazing decoration.

Unknown said...

Wow, it's just like I imagined when reading Days of Blood and Starlight! It's so beautiful and full of magic.

Unknown said...

Wow, it's just like I imagined when reading Days of Blood and Starlight! It's so beautiful and full of magic.

hamza said...

I think it's so beautiful done like that, mosaics adorning everything you see.

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