As this fortified city full of towering kasbahs and crumbling walls took beatings from the brutal rains, its citizens defected into more modern digs on the other side of the Ounila River, except for a stubborn few that remain in the formerly majestic ksar. While in the 1940s, more than 90 families were living in the Kasbah of Ait Benhaddou, today only five families are still living inside the fortress.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987, Aït Benhaddou was once a major stop along the caravan route between Marrakech and the Sahara. The striking visage of southern Moroccan architecture is thought to be 17th-century and contains a mosque, two cemeteries (Jewish and Muslim), a public square, and areas for threshing grain outside of the ramparts.
Despite not being completely abandoned, the earthen architecture is vulnerable to weather and lack of care. While the site has maintained its authenticity, the lack of maintenance and its sparsity of inhabitants led to serious deterioration. Assigned a five-year plan by officials, the ksar received some care and restoration between 2007 and 2012, using as much wood and as many earthen techniques as possible to keep the site historically preserved. One of the remaining families opened a traditional café to give visitors an overview of the ancient lifestyle in the fortress and as a way to preserve their tradition and heritage.
The Kasbah was a set for many international films and TV shows, like Game of Thrones, Laurence of Arabia, and Gladiator.