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Aït Benhaddou (Berber: Ath Benhadu, Arabic: آيت بن حدّو) is an amazing place in the mountains near Ouarzazate. Home to a very old and amazingly preserved Kasbah, this quiet town sees some day trippers, but not much overnight traffic. Staying overnight will let you watch the sun set and rise against this amazing backdrop of history and architecture.
The Kasbah, or old Moroccan style fortress, is open to the public and has a small entrance fee. It is reached by crossing the seasonal river, which may or may not be flowing. If it is flowing, local men with donkeys and camels will offer to take you across the river for a fee. Negotiate and don't be afraid to take your shoes off and get wet. Simply taking your shoes off should lower the price if you don't really want to walk.
The fortress is more of a town sitting on the side of a hill, and you can climb your way through and up to the top for the terrific views of the surrounding mountains. A few artists have small shops in the town, and a few people still live there. The film Gladiator was filmed here, and can be credited for much of the restoration of the Kasbah, although the arena constructed for the film has been torn down.
A few hours walk up river and down river are two other towns. Up river is another town with an equally impressive Kasbah with a surrounding garden area, although it is smaller. Downriver, the town sees hardly any tourists. The locals are extremely friendly and welcoming, although the Kasbah here is in a sad state of disrepair.
Ouarzazate has the nearest airport. You will need a bus or car from this point.
Currently, Atlas Blue flies directly to Paris, Regional Air Lines flies to Agadir, Casablanca, Laayoune and Marrakech and Royal Air Maroc flies to Casablanca, Barcelona and Paris. Spanair serves Barcelona as well.
Marrakech has the nearest train station, you will need a bus or car from this point.
Ait Ben Haddou is about 10 kilometres from the turnoff to the main Marrekech-Ouarzazate highway. The town is the only thing on this road, and if you miss it (only if you are blind) you will cross a small bridge and end up in another town where the paved road ends.
In Marrakech take a bus to Ouarzazate, or from Ouarzazate take a bus to Marrakech, and tell the driver you want to be let off at the intersection to Ait Ben Haddou. This is a busy intersection with shops and a few hotels. Here there will be taxi drivers waiting. You can take your own car or try to wait for other people to share a car. Negotiating your price is important. The drive only takes 10 minutes, and if you are in really good shape, have little baggage, and the weather is good you could walk if you had to. For the return trip, buses come somewhat frequently, so get a car back to the main highway and flag one down. Often the local people will be doing the same thing, and your hotel in Ait Ben Haddou might be able to give you a schedule of Marrakech - Ouarzazate bus services.
There is no public transportation, but the town is very small. You can hike to a few nearby towns as well, although it is best to make a day trip out of it.
A few of the main hotels in the middle of town have restaurants. They are very good, but a bit overpriced compared to the rest of Morocco. Some have great views of the Kasbah.
Several hotels are right in the middle of town, and some have great views of the Kasbah out their back windows across the river. Some are cheaper than others, and prices change depending on the season and tour schedules. It is always good to shop around and negotiate.
There are plenty of Cybercafes in cities and small towns and accessing the Internet won't be a problem. The price is around 4 to 10DH/ hour. If you have a laptop while traveling then you can buy a USB key for wireless connection from one of the 3 main telecommunication companies (Maroc Telecom, Meditel, and Inwi). Credits are available starting from 10DH/24 hours (starting from the time you use it, if you start at 2:00am then next day at 2:00am you will have to recharge it again). Wifi is getting more and more common in places like hotels, shopping malls and in restaurants and coffee places in larger cities. The wireless connection in some areas might be slow, that depends on the signal as not the whole of Morocco has 3G coverage.
See also: International Telephone Calls
Morocco's country code is +212, International Call Prefix is 00. The telephone numbering scheme is changed starting March 2009. All fixed telephone numbers have a 5 inserted after the 0, and all mobile telephone numbers have a 6 inserted after the 0. All numbers are now ten-digit long, counting the initial 0. Useful numbers are Police: 19; Fire Service: 15; Highway Emergency Service: 177; Information: 160.
Public telephones can be found in city centres, but private telephone offices (also known as teleboutiques or telekiosques) are also commonly used.
The GSM mobile telephone network in Morocco can be accessed via one of two major operators: Meditel or Maroc Telecom. Prepaid cards are available. It is very easy and cheap to buy a local GSM prepaid card in one of the numberous phone shops showing a Maroc Telecom sign.
Post Maroc is the national postal service of Morocco and has details on their website (French) regarding the sending of letters, postcards and parcels, both domestically and internationally. The postal service in Morocco is very efficient and the post offices are generally open Monday through Friday, from 8:30am to 12 noon and 2:30pm to 6:30pm. On Saturdays it is open from 8:30am to 2:00pm. Some might keep longer hours though, especially in larger tourist cities and central areas. You can post your mail at one of the post offices or otherwise in the yellow post boxes you'll find throughout the country. For packages, you can also use international courier companies like TNT, DHL or UPS. They offer quick, reliable services and competitive rates.
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