Kasbahs, snow-capped mountains – on the way to Marrakech

What exactly is a Kasbah? During our time in Morocco I’ve been trying to work it out! At first, I understood a kasbah to be a fortified village, but sometimes entire towns are considered kasbahs and other times just a single building is.  According to articles I’ve read, every Moroccan village has a kasbah where either the ruling sheik or king once lived, providing a high vantage point to watch for approaching and unwanted guests. Ighrem is the Berber word and Ksar is Arabic.

Ait Ben Haddou is just one of the many Kasbahs that we have seen perched atop a craggy rock overlooking a valley, or on a hilltop. The buildings and walls are built of mud and straw bricks and covered with mud. The roofs of the buildings are flat and covered in the same mud material. Often the tops of the towers are crenellated and there are no windows. There is no water or electricity within the Kasbah. We crossed the river to the Kasbah on this “bridge”.

A very cute and attractive blonde camel.

Ait Ben Haddou is on the caravanseri route between the Sahara and Marrakech and has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1987. Only four families still reside in the Kasbah, but many merchants have their little shops to sell to tourists. A number of films were made using the village – Gladiator and Lawrence of Arabia to name a couple.

An ingenious and simple door lock. Slot in the comb-like piece with nails reflecting the number in the family.

These paintings are interesting. The first layer (the brown) is painted in honey. The yellow is saffron and the blue is indigo. After the yellow and blue have been painted on, the paper is held over heat and the honey caramelizes and turns brown!!

Continuing on the caravanseri route towards Marrakech, we made another stop to see the Kasbah Telouet. Once the palatial residence to the Lords of the Atlas – the Glaoui family, the Kasbah now stands in ruins after the last Pasha fled following the departure of the French and Moroccan independence. (A Pasha was the representative of the Sultan in a city or province – like a Governor.)

“The strategic location of the Kasbah illustrates the power and influence he held. With views over beautiful mountains green and peaceful Berber villages, it is easy to see why the family decided to build their Kasbah in this spot. Positioned on the passageway of merchant caravans and near prosperous salt mines, the Glaoui’s had the privilege of receiving gifts from those journeying past. But this privilege was a result of Thami El Glaoui’s brutal warlord and chieftain status. While some regard him as a fine man, many view him as a bloodthirsty traitor. He was one of two brothers who were sons of an Ethiopian slave woman. They were prominent brothers within the Glaoui tribe and by brute force they managed to rule much of Southern Morocco during the early twentieth century.”

It is said that Glaoui commissioned 300 skilled craftsmen, who worked for 3 years to decorate the ceilings and walls of the palace. The workmanship rivals many of the magnificent moorish palaces in Andalusia. It is decorated with fine mosaics, intricate stucco (lime, egg whites and marble powder), carved cedar ceilings, and silk panels on the walls. The main room and dining room have been preserved, but the rest of the palace is in semi-disrepair and most of the older sections of the Kasbah are in complete ruins.

Our digs in Marrakech – Dar Bob Sultan

One thought on “Kasbahs, snow-capped mountains – on the way to Marrakech

  1. What exquisite detail and artistic expression in their buildings. I am in awe of this beauty. Thanks for bringing us a close-up look. How wonderful for you and Dennis. Continued safe travels.

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