Travels with V


Snow and Sahara

Ouarzazate part one

Marrakech lies at the foot of the mighty Atlas mountains, the backbone of Morocco. And we climb them by bus, first across a stone-littered desert, then up among hills with yellow grass. Further up there’s less and less life on the brown-grey mountain slopes. There are some villages clinging to the mountain sides, and in the river canyons below there are small green patches, diminutive farming lands.

We keep an eye on the iPhone’s altimeter as we pass below snow-capped mountain tops, we’re getting near 2000 meters over sea level. The bus keeps on climbing and finally reaches a pass at 2250 meters osl. Then it’s downhill again.

Our goal is Ouarzazate (or Quarzazate as it’s sometimes spelled) on the brink of the Sahara desert. It’s not a very old town, but it has grown very fast recently, and today it has the pulse of a modern city. Relatively many tourists find their way here, so there’s a variety of hotels to choose from. We unfortunately choose a big and almost empty lodge on a desolate back street too far from the city center. The rooms are cold as ice and there’s no hot water, so we leave quickly and rather panicky book a room at the fashionable Berber Palace. A switch we don’t regret, it’s a superb place, well equipped with several restaurants and a great bar where there’s a fire going in a large fireplace.

And the rooms are spacey and just perfect.

Ouarzazate is famous for having seen quite a number of movies being made here. The sunlight, the desert and the traditional red mud house kasbahs and villages have been attractive for the makers of productions like Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, Asterix, Ben Hur and Game of Thrones and many others. Most of the films are made in Atlas Studios.


Join us for a round trip in some of the studio’s amazing scenography, starting in a kasbah used in a couple of popular movies (and remember – it’s all fake!):

And here’s some more objects that you might have seen on screen:

Film makers have also often used other locations in the area, next we check out a gravel pit that mysteriously turned into the coliseum in Gladiator! We see a “ksar” and an oasis and also say hello to a man who lives with his family in a cave in the desert.

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