Fifteen Minutes of Fame… And Then Some: Ait Ben Haddou

It’s a sad truth that many places I visit in the world are disappointing. Well disappointing isn’t quite the word for it, more that, my ignorant, Hollywood skewed, image of things isn’t exactly what I had envisioned. For example, not everyone in Namibia lives in the bush and speaks in a clicking dialect. Similarly, the pyramids of Egypt, sit right on the edge of a bustling city, instead of standing alone, deep within the Egyptian desert. Hollywood films have often distorted our reality of how places on the other side of the world look, which is fair enough, it’s their job to make the world magical…
The tiny village of Ait Ben Haddou in central Morocco is the opposite of that. It’s actually how I envisioned all of Morocco to look more or less. Why is that? Probably because this little town is also the set of many, many Hollywood films.
In 1960, Ben Haddou was the setting for Lawrence of Arabia, and since then has been featured in over 27 major films. Classics like Ali Baba and the 40 Theives, and the Young Indiana Jones, and more recent films such as Gladiator, Prince of Persia, Babel and Game of Thrones have all been shot there. It is the quintessential “North Africa”. Originally built in the 1500’s, Ben Haddou is still an inhabited village. I’m not sure exactly how the locals feel about the constant stream of filmmakers in the area, but it sure has become a tourist destination due to them. And I can see why; staring at the town from across the river is one of those rare movie moments, where the place matches the ideal.

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