We took a trip to the Ksar of Aït-BenHaddou which is one of the most impressive settings in Morocco and even part of UNESCO’s World Heritage List. This unique fortress stands out on the doors of the Sahara Desert like a thrilling underworld. As it happens, we have also come to an African Hollywood as you will not realise how many times you have seen this landscape due to the amount of films shot here in Aït Benhaddou.
In reality, the Kasbah appears to be the biggest and most exotic of the country, and it is where we are that is known as the Route of the Thousand Kashbahs. However, we do have similar settings in Europe, this is because what Arabs call a Kasbah would be a citadel to us which are highly common especially in Spain, taking the incredible Al-Andalus for example.
Although the name kasbah is linked to Aït Benhaddou, it’s true that for many art historians it’s more apt to refer to this fortress as Ksar or Ksour, which are Arabic terms that can be translated as “castle”.
Citadel or Castle, the truth is that the grandeur and mystery that surrounds Aït Benhaddou has become a perfect location for the filming of blockbuster movies and other well-known TV series. As mentioned earlier, it would surprise you to find out how many times you have seen a snapshot of these great locations whilst watching your favourite movies.
The magic is just undeniable, if we keep in mind that to arrive in Aït Benhaddou and to know the area in which so many films have been shot, we have had to go around either Uarzazat or Ouarzazate. We are also incredibly close to the Atlas Mountains, a location incredibly popular with the most adventurous travellers. Furthermore, the province has a perfect name given its location, as Uarzazat has a literal translation of “noiseless” and soon you will understand the reason for this, you will also be able to imagine why this place is known as the Gateway to the Desert.
The colour of the African landscape shows the reason why this area is called the “red earth” and for this reason you will never forget it, as it happens to all of us who travel this beautiful continent…and this is what happened to a good number of film-makers who fell head over heels with this beautiful setting.
The existence of Moroccan Hollywood is not new. Films as legendary as Lawrence of Arabia or Cleopatra were partially filmed in Aït Benhaddou. In fact, the industry started acquiring a certain importance and built various cinematic studios in the area: Atlas Corporation Studios, the first cinematic studio built in Maghreb, and CLA Studios.
In any case, nowadays, anything that hints towards sand, desert, marine wars….Palestine, Afghan, Iraqi settings….everything passes through Aït Benhaddou. Let’s get down to the list of movies filmed at this famous historical and cultural landmark!
Translated by Alice Britton and Saskia Goff