Saturday, July 14, 2012

Ait Benhaddou - Morocco - June, 2012

Ait Benhaddou, Morocco  June 2012

Today was the first day of the safari and our first legitimate stop was to the old town of Ait Benhaddou.  I say legitimate because we made several stops at shacks along the way to get a drink, go to the bathroom, all of which are squat toilets.  I'm sure that Mohammed got a kick back.  More power to him.
    You've probably never heard of Ait Benhaddou, but you've seen it many times, unless you've been in a cave or never seen a movie.  It's where many great movies were partially filmed, "Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, and the list goes on.

I don't usually take photos of garbage cans, however, Ait Benhaddou had one... and that was rare to see in Morocco.  Funny, I had to go to a ghost town to see a garbage can.  

As tourist, we learn that the UNESCO (United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization) has taken over control of the Ait Benhaddou site and it does many things to protect it from the ravages of time and the greed of mankind.  You are allowed to wander the streets, but you must have a guide with you.  Fair enough.  I've seen what not having a guide can do to archaeological sites, and for that matter, what guides taking bribes can do to sites.  If it means employing one more person, good enough for me.

I think this ol' feller has been around since the original gladiators fought.  He earned a few dirham for sitting in the sun, playing music, and making the world a better place.  Thanks, mister.

There were about 450 people living here, but they've all been moved to across the river because during the flood season, they couldn't cross.  Now there are about 25 people who still live here as caretakers.  The people are berbers and don't like being told where they can come and go.  Who does...but get in line!

UNESCO wants to make Ait Benhaddou as authentic as possible.  So they are destroying anything that  has been put there artificially, such as the gates used in Lawrence of Arabia.  The arena that was built for Gladiator has been completely destroyed and nowadays looks like an open field with a bit of a depression in it.  I understand UNESCO"s thought line, but really?? you couldn't just have a sign that says, "added for the Gladiator scene"?  How many tourist are going to come here if it's just another set of ruins.  Marketing 101 fellas!!  If you really want it to be in it's original state, level it.  The locals have been fighting for many years to keep Lawrence's gates!

The world isn't black and white, UNESCO, despite that we want it to be.

 "Don't be afraid of giving away power, because only the powerful can give away power." -SWB

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