Ksar Ait Ben Haddou, near Ouarzazate, Morocco
Click to see tours that include visits to Ait Ben Haddou.
About a 30-minute drive from Ouarzazate, Morocco, or a long day-trip from Marrakech, Ait Ben Haddou is a fortified village (ksar) in south-central Morocco. It’s only one of many ksars built by the indigenous Amazighen (Berbers) in the area, but, thanks to its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a setting for a long list of Hollywood films, this ksar, unlike its fellows, is well preserved. It sits in the southern foothills of the High Atlas Mountains on the old trade route between the Sahara desert and Marrakech. Continue reading
Jemaa el Fna Square, Marrakech, Morocco
Jemaa el Fna square on the edge of the souk of Marrakech is short-attention-span theater en plein air. Early in the day, it can be almost sleepy, with scattered peddlers and juice venders, but as the sun drops in the sky the place begins to sizzle and pop. If there was a lid, it would blow right off. A throbbing mass of humanity swims around the food stalls, story tellers, musicians, acrobats, sellers of potions, magicians, tooth-pullers, henna artists, snake charmers, monkey guys, and vendors of all sorts. A good share of the throbbing mass is tourists, either intoxicated by the surging energy or dazed and confused by it, but the square really belongs to the people of Marrakech. While there’s no shortage of really tiresome and pushy peddling, taken as a whole, Jemaa el Fna is a sanctuary of authentic culture, and has, in fact, been declared so by UNESCO. Continue reading
The spectacular Todra Gorge is located in the eastern High Atlas Mountains. Walls rise 500 feet on either side of this narrow canyon, only 33 feet wide in spots. The nearest town is Tinghir. Residents in the area are mostly the indigenous Amazigh, sometimes known as Berbers. Kelaa M’Gouna, famous for roses, is close enough to combine with Todra Gorge in a day of touring, as is another series of gorges, the Dades Gorges.
This North African country was the first to acknowledge the independence of the United States of America.* In 1777, seeking to expand foreign trade, the country’s sultan opened his ports to several European countries with which he did not have treaties, and to the brand new nation of the USA. In treating the United States just as he did partner countries with formal agreements, he legitimized its independence.
The Americans were focused on their revolutionary war at the time and it took a few years for a proper response. Ultimately, a Treaty of Peace and Friendship was signed by both nations in 1786. Although renegotiated some 50 years later, this treaty is still in effect and is America’s longest standing treaty.
*France was the first to formally recognize US independence by treaty, in 1778.
Can you name that country?
See below for answers.