If you’re like most travelers stranded by Covid, you’ve probably streamed travel movies instead of traveling: old classics like Casablanca or Lawrence of Arabia, or newer classics like the Mummy series (The Return by Brendan Fraser has returned these old gems to the must-see Netflix column) or Gladiator. Amazon’s first season Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan was shot almost entirely in Morocco, as were some scenes from Games of Thrones.
The reason why so many movies and TV shows are shot in the Kingdom of Morocco is the same reason Los Angeles and Hollywood have become the center of the film industry: location, location, location.
Like the Los Angeles region, Morocco is surrounded by a variety of microclimates. The Sahara Desert borders Morocco in the Erg Chebbi region. The High Atlas Mountains that border the country offer lush green orchards and snow-capped peaks.
So many films have used the country that the world’s largest film studio, Atlas Studios, opened in 1983 in Ouarzazate. If you’ve seen a movie recently with hordes of warriors riding across the desert sands, you can bet it was shot in Atlas.
While many visits to Morocco touch on one or two of the sites you might find familiar from the film, Magic of the Sahara is a Moroccan family-owned personalized travel company that offers a 13-day trip through the Kingdom that will bring streaming fans face to face with scenes from their favorite films, but this time up close and in a personal way.
The company’s top-rated 13-day, 12-night Moroccan Tour features five-star hotels or riads and luxury tented camps. Transportation is in private 4x4s or air-conditioned minibuses.
The journey begins with, yes you guessed it, a negative PCR test to enter the country and an international flight to the city of Casablanca where you can stay overnight if you wish and explore while watching the classic Warner movie. Brothers from 1942 on your iPad or iPhone. If you are staying overnight, dine at Rick’s Cafe Casablanca, a restaurant, a bar and a café opened in 2004 to recreate the bar from the film. The bar even has an authentic 1930s piano with an in-house pianist who will play As Time Goes By on demand.
From Casablanca, the tour moves to Morocco’s most famous city, Marrakech, where you can explore the city with a private guide. Explore the Jemaa El Fna Market, known for its snake charmers and for being the site of Hitchcock’s chase scene in The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956) starring James Stewart and Doris Day. You can also see the market in Kate Winslett’s 1999 film, Hideous Kinky. Other sites to visit in the city include the 19th-century Bahia Palace, the 16th-century Saadian tombs, and the lush Majorelle Garden, originally planted by famed Marrakech resident Yves Saint Laurent, who visited moved to the city in its hippie heyday of the 1960s.
From Marrakech, the tour moves to Essaouira, a coastal town also called ‘The City of the Wind’, for the Atlantic breezes that entice surfers to ride the waves here (and at one point Jimi Hendrix, who wrote the song, Castles Made de Sable in Essaouira).
Film buffs will notice the statue of Orson Welles in the town square. It’s there because the master filmmaker filmed his version of Shakespeare’s Othello (1952) in the city.
The fifth day takes travelers to Ouarzazte where the tour visits the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ait Ben Haddou, a fortified village and living museum used as the backdrop for many films made at the nearby Atlas studios . A visit to the studios can also be organized. Since so many films have been shot at Atlas, many movie sets and props, like Gladiator and series like Game of Thrones, are still intact and can be seen and “grammed”.
On day 6, treks through the Todra Gorge to a luxury overnight camp in the Sahara that you have the option of reaching by camel caravan. Some scenes of Lawrence of Arabia were filmed in Morocco with stars Peter O’Toole and Egyptian actor Omar Shariff learning to ride a camel expressly for the desert scenes in this Oscar-winning film.
Camel riding is, for the most part, much easier than horseback riding. The gait is slow and steady, and unlike horses, camels even kneel so you can ride.
Sahara Magic’s trip to Morocco ends with a trip to the “white” city of Fez whose meandering medieval streets and alleys will make travelers feel like they are in the middle of a Westeros town from Game of Thrones. He also visits the Roman ruins of Volibulis, used by director Ridley Scott as the backdrop for Gladiator.
If some of these sites fire up your imagination but you prefer to dive deep and leave the movie scripts at home, Sahara Magic can arrange personalized tours and desert camping on your own schedule so you can have as much time as you want. you want it in this magical region which has attracted filmmakers from all over the world for its medieval architecture, Berber culture and ancient cities.
Morocco’s flagship airline, Royal Air Maroc (RAM), has announced a flash sale of flights from more than a dozen cities across the United States. The sale, which began on Tuesday, will only last a week and will include flights to Mohammed V International Airport in Casablanca. American cities included in the program include New York, Washington, Boston, Orlando, Chicago, Miami, Tampa, Atlanta, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Dallas, San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles.