Hollywood and Bollywood are not the only ones. Morocco also ranks among production companies’ favorite places to shoot films and TV series. Berbers’ colorful land, rich in culture and suggestive landscapes, home to several Unesco heritage sites and with an incredible natural light that makes colors stand out, it has been and still is the ideal location for a myriad of films.
In particular, the city of Ouarzazate, in the central area of the country and very close to the Sahara desert, hosts one of the largest film studios in the world. This is why the city was given the nickname of “African Hollywood”.
A few kilometers from Ouarzazate, there is the oldest of the three major film studios in the country: the Atlas Corporation Studios. They were founded in 1983 by the Moroccan producer and entrepreneur Mohamed Belghmi. The other two are the Kanzaman Studios, which since 2004 have hosted a film school, and the CLA Studios, born in 2004 from a collaboration between the Moroccan entrepreneur Saïd Alj and the film producer Dino De Laurentiis.
Even before their foundation, already in the mid-1900s, several directors chose this location for their films. Among these: Ali Baba et les 40 voleurs (1954), Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Patton(1970). Since then it has been a crescendo and more and more film stars have begun to play their characters in the magical Moroccan settings.
If we know films like The Living Daylights and 1001 Nights by Philippe Le Broca only by hearsay, it is impossible not to have seen at least once in our life two great classics like The Gladiator and The Mummy. The scenes depicting the gladiator school and those of the imprisonment of the character played by Russel Crowe were all shot in Morocco. The cedar woods on the road to Erfoud have instead served as a location for The Mummy and also for Prince of Persia.
In 2001, Brad Pitt played a CIA agent in the action film Spy Game, before returning to the scene in 2006 as Richard Jones for the Cannes Film Festival’s Best Director Award-winning film, Babel. Orlando Bloom traveled to Morocco to play a French farrier headed to the Holy Land in the film Kingdom of Heaven. In short, there are so many famous actors who have performed in those lands: from Penelope Cruz to Brendan Fraser, from Matthew McConaughey to Tom Cruise.
In addition to cinema films, TV series have also been shot in Morocco. Do you remember the city of Astapor in Game of Thrones? It is nothing more than Essaouira, a Moroccan port city. And the slave town of Yunkai? That is actually the village of Ait Ben Haddou, located between the Sahara desert and Marrakech.