Ouarzazet: Making Movies in Morocco

Did you know one of the largest film studios in the world is in rural Morocco. Atlas Studios is in Ouarzazet. Scenes from Babel, Gladiator, Lawrence of Arabia, Game of Thrones and many other films have been shot in the area.

Atlas Studio

CLA Studio nearby

Set used as Jerusalem. Atlas saves many sets and has tours.

Parts of Gladiator were filmed at Ait Ben Haddou, a historic village along old caravan route. It is a Unesco site.

Camels and Dunes in the Erg Chebbi

No trip to Morocco is complete without a night at a tented camp in the red sand dunes. We were in the Erg Chebbi near Merzouga. Our trek included a 30-minute camel ride over a flat surface into the dunes, but the rest of the trip was by 4X4.

Me and my camel. Most of the pictures of the dunes were taken from the 4X4 because I was afraid to let go of the camel’s swaying saddle. The wrapped cloth turbans are a type of traditional headdress for the Berbers tribes, now called the Amazigh, any of the descendants of the pre-Arab inhabitants of North Africa.

The tented camp. At home in the desert with all the amenities, except wi-fi. Luckily, I could still get a signal.

We had a Moroccan musical performance of Gnawa, a mystical music originating from West Africa.

Gnawa Music

“Gnawa is one of the most popular types of music in Northern Africa. The Gnawa are slave descendants who were brought to Morocco by the Arabs and claim to be descendants of Sidi Bilal. Their sub-Saharan music has a lead, long-necked lute player who sings and is accompanied by metal castanets. . . .This style has been blended with hip-hop, jazz, rock, and funk but still preserves the traditional sound of their ancestors.” (from https://simply-morocco.com/moroccan-music/)

“For Gnawa music is a fusion of Arab, Berber and African rhythms. It is powerful trance music that goes back to the 16th century and has gained international popularity over the last few years. If you are in Morocco during the month of June, don’t miss the three-day Gnawa festival in the city of Essaouira in the south of Morocco. The main instruments of Gnawa music is the double-headed drum – or tbal – and metal castanets or qerqbat. Gnawa has also gone through changes and can be heard mixed with different musical styles such as Jazz.”  (from https://www.morocco.com/culture/music/)

Morning brought clouds and then rain as we left the dunes behind.


Fes is Morocco. It has it all. It is vibrant and rushed and bursting with color and sound. It is more old than new, unlike Casablanca which feels much like many other modern cities. Fes is one of the four royal cities of Morocco and is its spiritual and cultural capital. Fes is famous for its medina, or historic city. The medina has two quarters, Fes el-Bali and Fes Jdid.

The Mellah, the Jewish Quarter, is located in Fes Jdid. Fes had one of the largest and oldest Jewish populations in Morocco. The history of the Jewish community in Fes is long and complex. Today few Jews remain in the city.
The Aben Danan Synagogue has been restored and is now a small museum. It was built in the 17th century and restored in 1998. There are no functioning synagogues in Fes.
Gates of the Alaouite Royal Palace (Dar al-Makhzen). The palace is located in the Fes Jdid, which was established in1276 as an administrative center and royal citadel. The gate is traditional in design but was built in the 1960s when King Hassan II moved the main entrance of the palace. The gates are a popular stop on the tourist circuit.
Gates of the Alaouite Royal Palace (Dar al-Makhzen), built in the 1960s.

Fes it know for its arts and crafts including pottery, metal working, leather goods, and carpets. We visited a pottery. The artisans and craftsmen are paid by the piece and times were hard for many of them during the pandemic when tourism was slow.

Forming clay tiles
The potter will make about 10 small items from this piece of clay
Paint pigments are natural
Women can now be painters
Hand crafted tiles for table tops and other items
Making the tiles

Fes el-Bali, the original historic city of Fes and generally called the medina, is a maze of streets and passageways, some barely wide enough to walk down. The medina is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is said to be the world’s oldest urban pedestrian zone, though donkeys are allowed. And a motorcycle or two.

About to enter the medina.
Many of the narrow alleys and streets are dead ends.
The narrowest passageway we encountered.
The dyers market, one of many specialized markets.
The fish market
This owner was dying yarn. This shop is the official dyer for the royal family when it has a special order for blue.
A coppersmith in the metal market
One of the master copper artisans.
The medina is home to many theological schools or madrassa, most of which are not open to non Muslims. The Al-Attarine Madrasa was built from 1323/1325. It is now open to the public.
It is known for its tile work, carved stucco, calligraphic inscriptions, carved cedar wood and its use of columns.
Looking down on the medina from the hotel.


On a 17 day tour of Morocco. So far have been to Rabat, Assilah, Chefchauon, Ouazzane, now Fes. What a wonderful country. A few shots from Rabat.

Main gate at Royal Palace, Rabat.

Chellah, a medieval fortress on the edge of Rabat

Sub-Saharan musicians in front of the gate at Chellah

King Mohamed V Mausoleum

Hassan Tower. Unfinished minaret, c. 1150 and remains of unfinished mosque.

12th century wall of unfinished mosque

Cats are everywhere in Morocco

Modern graffiti in the Kasbah

Where the river meets the Atlantic Ocean from Kasbah overlook. Kasbah mean fort

Kasbah Gate

Andalusian music, Moroccan music from Spain

Chicken and almonds tajine

Playing with my Samsung S22 Ultra and low light

Lecture on Moroccan clothing styles at the Cross Cultural Center for Learning, our hosts in Rabat.

Ornate Pharaoh: Abu Simbel

The entrance to the sandstone Temple of Rameses II at Abu Simbel. He reigned from 1279–13 BCE. Photo taken from the deck of the small ship cruising Lake Nasser, which was created when the Nile was dammed at Aswan. The entire temple complex was raised piece by piece to rescue it from rising waters. The rescue was part of an international effort to save the tombs and temples in Nubia from the rising lake.

Join The Life Captured’s Photo Prompt (LCPP): Ornate Entrance

Water to Calm the Soul

The Indian Ocean looking west from the coast of Zanzibar, Tanzania

Join Terri’s Sunday Stills: Wishing for Water

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