Morocco is a land of mountains, deserts, medieval cities, roman ruins and famous film sets. Thinking about Morocco and film undoubtedly conjures up images of Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in the 1942 American classic, Casablanca. Ironically none of Casablanca was filmed in Morocco, but many classics were, such as Lawrence of Arabia and Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew To Much as well as recent hits like The Mummy, Gladiator and Sex and the City 2.
The grand architecture of Morocco’s Imperial Cities, picturesque mountain villages and dramatic sand dunes, make Morocco a highly sought after backdrop for the film industry. Filming in Morocco is ideal for many reasons such as its proximity to Europe, highly developed film infrastructure, low production costs and endless sunny weather.
Most of the filming in Morocco is centered in the area from Marrakech to Ouarzazate in south central Morocco. Marrakech’s main square, Djemaa El Fna, may look familiar since it has been the backdrop for so many international films. The square’s dizzying array of food stalls, craft booths, storytellers, theatre acts and snake charmers served as the backdrop for such films as The Man Who Knew Too Much, The Mummy and Sex and the City 2.
Marrakech’s most historic and famous hotel, La Mamounia, has seen its fair share of Hollywood action. This world-class luxury hotel was featured in The Man Who Knew Too Much and the lavish gardens surrounding the hotel were also used in Oliver Stone’s Alexander.
Although Sex and the City 2 was set in Abu Dhabi, most of the film was actually filmed in Morocco. Filming took place in Marrakech’s famous Djemaa El Fna square as well as the Moroccoan cities of Erfoud and Rabat.
Continue your movie tour of Morocco along the “route of a thousand Kasbahs.” The classic route heads toward the Atlas Mountains out of Marrakech to Ouarzazate passing by the backdrops of numerous films.
Just before you reach Ouarzazate, you will see the fortified city of Ait Benhaddou Kasbah. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city has a frozen-in-time feeling since it strongly resembles its 11th century design thanks to some Hollywood-led restoration. The red brick Kasbah served as the backdrop for such films as The Mummy, Lawrence of Arabia and Jesus of Nazareth (for which much of the Kasbah was rebuilt). Very few people still live in Ait Benhaddou as most residents have moved into a more modern village across the Ounila River.
No film tour of Morocco is complete without visiting Ouarzazate. Known as the “door of the desert,” Ouarzazate is perched on the edge of the Sahara Desert just south of the High Atlas Mountains. The city’s scenery has provided an exotic filming location for such films as Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Babel and many more. You can visit the Atlas Film Studio located just outside of town and view the Tibetan monastery used in Kundun, an airplane from The Jewel of the Nile and other old film sets. Also visit the Taourirt Kasbah, which served as a backdrop for a scene in Star Wars.
Written by Amiee Maxwell.
Photo by late night movie.