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 the « Casablanca » scenes were 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 principal location destination for so many international films. The square’s dizzying array of food stalls, craft booths, storytellers, theatre acts and snake charmers served as a key location 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 filming was actually in Morocco. Filming took place in Marrakech’s famous Djemaa El Fna square as well as other very beautiful locations:
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 the city of 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 the city of 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 Studios located just outside of town and view the Tibetan monastery used in « Kunduné, an airplane from « The Jewel of the Nile » and other old film sets. Furthermore, visit the Taourirt Kasbah, which served for an important scene in « Rules of Engagement. »