Castle made of sand

Coming into Ait Benhaddou shortly before an early sunset (a little after 5PM this time of year in trans-Atlas Morocco) I saw that it would be a race with the light to get to an elevation in the old fortress for photography. The bus stopped at the inevitable coffee shop with a view and for-pay bathrooms, and I raced out with camera and tripod.

Castle made of sand © Harold Davis
Castle made of sand © Harold Davis

The first hurdle was crossing the river (shown towards the back of the photo). There was a bridge upstream, but it was too far to make it in time for the light. The stepping stones nearer to my location looked precarious, but I watched a local person cross, and I realized they were steady enough if the attempt was made carefully. In fact, these steps were sandbagged cunningly in place and arranged to look precarious, so that when help was needed a tip could be solicited.

I carefully crossed the river, and made my into the Ksar. Several people demanded an admission fee. One lady was so persistent that I actually gave her a one Dirham coin (about ten cents). She took a look at it, told me if wasn’t enough, and handed it back to me in disgust.

The interior was a maze, and I knew that if I made a wrong turn I would lose the light. I also didn’t want to recross the river after dark, or miss the meeting time at the bus. So I raced upwards, finding a platform with a three Dirham for-pay bathroom and a great view. I handed over the money and set up my tripod. The proprietor was extremely gracious to me, and poured me a welcome cup of mint tea.

The image shows a castle made of crumbling sandstone, built on a huge scale, though it could easily be mistaken for a children’s sandcastle if one doesn’t look too closely.

Today is Moroccan independence day (won from France, in 1956). I’ll be writing more about this intriguing country, which has one foot in the thirteenth century and the other in the twenty-first.

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