Lawrence of Arabia, Kundun, Gladiator, The Mummy, Babel, Asterix and Obelix, Mary of Nazareth, The Jewel of the Nile movies, and more, were all filmed in the Draa-Tafilalet region. Discover the fictional city of Yunkai that Daenerys Targaryen tries to conquer in the Game of Thrones series, sit on Cleopatra’s throne in the movie Mission Cleopatra, and notably view several hangars where the series and films were shot, it’s well worth it!
Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Lawrence of Arabia, directed in 1962 and starring Peter O’Toole and Omar Sharif, is based on the true story of a British officer and writer Thomas Edward Lawrence, who was tasked with investigating Arab revolts against Turkish occupation. He eventually united with the revolutionaries and organized a guerilla (war) in the vast dunes of the desert. A brilliant but controversial character, he will fight beside his allies and transform the face of an empire. Lawrence of Arabia was a big success and earned seven Oscars, making it one of the big movies of the “seventh art.” Several sequences were shot in Ouarzazate, including Kasbah Tifoultoute and Ksar Ait Ben Haddou.
Oedipus the King (1967)
The wonderful Italian movie by Pier Paolo Pasolini follows the life of a wealthy child, in a unique interpretation of the Oedipus myth. His father abandons him because he is jealous of his wife’s love for him. This youngster will grow up in a fantasy-filled ancient Greece, unconscious of his actual identity, until the end of his adventure, when he will kill his father and marry his mother. The film was shot in Ait-Ben-Haddou, Ouarzazate, and Zagora, Morooc.
Martin Scorsese, a major fan of the iconic group Nass El Ghiwane, returned to Morocco to film numerous scenes for his film “Kundun” in the Atlas Film Studio in Ouarzazate after filming “The Last Temptation of Christ” (1988) a few years earlier. Under the request of the American filmmaker, the Ksar Ait Ben Haddou was changed to resemble Tibet. “Kundun’s” story begins in 1937 when a 2-year-old boy is identified as the 14th reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual and political leader.
The Mummy (1999)
“The Mummy” movie was a commercial hit in the 1990s. It is an American fantasy adventure movie, where a mummy of a cursed ancient Egyptian priest, was accidentally brought back to life by archaeologists in the 1920s. This movie was filmed in Ksar Ait Benhaddou, Erfoud, Merzouga, Jbel M’Douer, Rissani, and Errachidia.
Starring the stunning Russel Crowe in the role of a Roman general Maximus, this movie deserves well its five Oscar. General Maximus, a loyal supporter of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, is kidnapped by a slave dealer, becomes a gladiator, and prepares his vengeance. Most of the scenes were shot in Ouarzazate. You may visit them in the cinema museum as well as the Moroccan cinema capital “Ksar Ait Ben Haddou.”
Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra (2002)
The second movie in the Asterix and Obelix saga to be released on the big screen, “Asterix and Obelix: Cleopatra’s expedition.” The movie was the most successful in France to date. It was entirely shot in Ouarzazate in Studio Atlas. Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt, decides to challenge the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar to build a luxurious palace in the middle of the desert in three months. If she succeeds, the Ceasar must publicly admit that the Egyptian people are the greatest of all. Cleopatra assigned Numerobis, an eager architect. If he succeeds, she will cover him with gold, if he doesn’t, she will feed him to crocodiles.
Gas Haven, the famous scene from the horror film “The Hills Have Eyes,” is situated on the road halfway between Taznakht and Ouarzazate. For once, a scene was not placed in Ksar Ait Ben Haddou. It is the story of an American family (the Carters) who were stranded in the middle of the desert, unaware that a group of cannibals is in the nearby hills.
Game of Thrones (2013)
The “Game of Thrones” production team travels the world to film in magnificent locations. Unsurprisingly, one of these locations was the Ksar Ait Ben Haddou, which sparked viewers’ imaginations in Season 3 when Daenerys invaded the city of Yunkai with her new army gained from Astapor. “Game of Thrones” follows the war of evil and supernatural forces fighting for the Iron Throne, the symbol of absolute power, at the gates of the Kingdom of the Seven Crowns.
Tinghir-Jerusalem: The Echoes of the Mellah (2013)
Kamal Hachkar, originally from Tinghir, learns from his grandparents’ stories that some Amazighs were Jews who had left the Atlas to travel to Israel. Kamal goes to find out about this buried memory within the generation that knew this Jewish presence. His journey takes him to Israel, where he meets some of the families originally from Tinghir. This documentary gathers the songs, voices, and tales of Jews and Muslims who share a double identity.
Qu’importe Si Les Betes Meurent (What if the Beasts Die) (2020)
Abdellah, a young shepherd, and his father are stranded by snow in their sheepfold, in the high Atlas Mountains. Abdellah has to stock up on food in a village more than a day’s walk away because their animals are dwindling. He arrives at the village on his mule and finds that it is empty due to a strange event that has upset all believers. Sofia Alaoui, a Moroccan director, produced a short movie in Imilchil, in the region of Midelt, which won the César for best short film in 2021.
The Cinema Museum, Le Studio Atlas, and the CLA in Ouarzazate are three outstanding studios that trace the history of movies produced in the Draa-Tafilalet region. A fun experience with family and for moviegoers!