Fetch-a-Phrase

Language, linguistics and travel. A blog that tries to bring them all together.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Ait Ben Haddou


One of the joys of having a car is being able to change your route at whim. It was in this manner that we arrived at the village of Ait Ben Haddou. Noted for its ancient adobe casbah, it has become not only a UNESCO protected site but has also the backdrop for many a Hollywood movie.

Surrounded by a profusion of oasis greenery, the casbah rises like a natural outcrop that erosion has formed into softened, straight lines, crenellations and incised geometric patterns. Behind carefully kept up towers and walls, the casbah's buildings crowd as though seeking comfort from one another. Their shared walls create a befuddling maze of intermittently roofed passageways that eventually lead to ruins at the top of the hill. These once formed the last line of defense against marauders. Along the way artifacts from the non-too-distant old days have been unartistically laid out to help give the masses of tourists passing through a sense of antiquity. Deeper into the casbah the buildings have been taken over by the commerce of tourism complete with predatory salesmen lingering out front with all the languages of the world falling from their lips. One was dressed in the blue truban of the Tuareg and said he rode his camel into the desert to pick up "the beautiful things" he had hanging from the walls and covering the floor. If anyone believed that line - there's a bridge in Brooklyn...

The view from the ruins was awe inspiring. On one side a barren desert of veined foothills slowly lumbered across the landscape; on the opposite side a wide stream flowed, bringing with it a lengthy, ribbon of foliage. Huddled adobe buildings edged the fields and trees, eventually giving way once more to the rich sienna and umber tones of the desert. Along the horizon, the snow capped peaks of the High Atlas dominated all below them like a purpled, elongated crown.

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