Morocco's own special home of film, Ouarzazate lies in a valley at the foot of the Atlas Mountains. At the crossroads of the Draa, Dades and Zis valleys, Ouarzazate is a good starting point for travelling to the Deep South. Most of its visitors are tourists who are making their way to the Sahara Desert. They stop here to stock up on provisions before making their way out to one of the greatest deserts in the world. Whether you are visiting just to see the sights or if you too are headed out to the Sahara, you should make time to see some of the attractions in Ouarzazate.
Things to See & Do
Most visitors find that on first glance, Ouarzazate is not all that spectacular. Apart from its desert-like setting and prettily designed architectural layout, it would seem to have very little to offer. However, don't be fooled. A scenic daytrip to the surrounding areas will soon have you entertained as you visit ruins of ancient Kasbahs, date palmeries and remote villages. Once you're done seeing the older sights of the city, head to your accommodation where you will likely be treated to traditional Moroccan food as well as a display of Moroccan singing and dancing as a group of woman in traditional garb does their best to entertain the guests. Some hotels have a swimming pool which can be most useful for beating the hot desert heat.
While visiting Ouazazate you should definitely make arrangements to visit the studio. It is situated right outside the town and is quite impressive to see. Most days it is open to the public for tours and if you are lucky you will get the chance to see them filming a movie. Quite a number of well-known movies have either been filmed here in their entirety or have had their desert scenes shot here. Films such as Lawrence of Arabia, The Living Daylights, Star Wars and The Gladiator all have the Ouarzazate desert in common. After you finish your tour of the studio, you might try your hand at shopping but might find that goods here are more expensive than they are in other parts of Morocco. The Kasbah has been recently restored and is worth a visit as is the Artisans Cooperative. Ouarzazate has an international airport to cater to the influx of international visitors involved in the filming industry.
A pair of magnificent kasbahs dazzle the visitor with their beauty - Taourirt and Aït Ben Haddou, 30km from town itself. Such is the reputation of these two architectural marvels that they were chosen as locations for films. And, crowing glory, UNESCO has included the two kasbahs in its world heritage programme. On the eastern edge of Ouarzazate, Taourirt Kasbah, formerly the residence of the Glaoui family, is amazingly beautiful. Its tightly packed houses and stately towers, made of a mixture of chalk and sand, melt almost imperceptibly into the surrounding red and ochre-coloured landscape. Northwest of Ouarzazate is Kasbah Aït Ben Haddou, a splendid sand castle resting magically in a field of blossoming almond trees.
Ouarzazate is also the arrival point of different cultures and crafts. Its souk is held every Sunday and is filled with henna, roses, caraway, distilled herb tea, Berber vases, objects in engraved stone, blankets and famous Ouzguita carpets, blue or resplendent gold with beautiful geometric designs.
At the end of the day you might find delight in dining at the famous Chez Dimitri restaurant. The restaurant serves pasta and salads and is a great change from the usual local food. It is also a welcome delight before heading into the hot sandy dessert. Certainly Ouarzazate has more to offer than initially meets the eye!
Not to be Missed
The Kelaa M'Gouna, called the rose garden of the Dades Valley, is a magnificent and superb place and the centre of a fertile rose-growing oasis. The French introduced the Damascus rose from Syria in the 1920s, and it thrived in this valley. Travellers have written that in May and June, at the time of the Rose Festival, the countryside around the Kelaa is completely covered with roses whose aroma hangs heavily over the countryside and the town itself. In the spring, perfumes from the fruit orchards, almond trees, and grape fields smothered by rose hedges produce a feeling of heavenly seduction.
Enquiries & Booking
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