A few hours east of the Tichka Pass is Ourzazate, the “Hollywood of Morocco” and a jumping-off point for most of the tours to Merzouga. While Ourzazate is a sleepy looking town to drive through, the surrounding desert is home to enormous motion picture sets and a sprawling studio complex.
The above photo is a small section of a huge series of desert studios. The studio and surrounding desert are where Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, Lawrence of Arabia, Kundun and The Last Temptation of Christ were filmed.
Oh yeah. Two of my personal favorite films – The Hills Have Eyes (2006) and, naturally, The Hills Have Eyes II (2007, for those keeping track) – were filmed there as well. CLASSICS. The tagline from the sequel was “The Lucky Ones Die Fast” or something like that. More like “The Lucky Ones Fell Asleep First”.
Visitors may take a tour of the studio for a small fee. We passed on the offer. When it’s 135 degrees in the shade, nothing except for an air-conditioned car sounds interesting.
We also passed through Ait Benhaddou, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and an incredibly famous backdrop for most of the movies mentioned above and many more.
Walking through these corridors it’s easy to imagine being transported into the dye-market scene from Gladiator and the scene from Alexander where, errrr, Alexander did that thing, right? Who remembers anything from Alexander?
After driving further the desert we made our way our hotel high atop the Dades Valley. The views from the hotel are incredible, as the hotel is built into the side of a sheer cliff in the middle of the valley. Looking out to the right of the property is a straight shot through the canyons and into the next valley.
Looking out to the left of the property is a clear view of the Dades Valley, complete with little kids repeatedly screaming “bon-joooooooooour!” at me and approximately one million goats and cows that absolutely refuse to sleep through the night.