advertisement

In the early 1960s, Lawrence of Arabia film director David Lean was the first to take advantage of Ouarzazate's potential as a movie location, the town's exotic scenery, clear skies, and availability of "authentic-looking" locals providing an attractive location for all movies involving ancient, desert-based story lines. In 1983, Moroccan entrepreneur Mohamed Belghmi, recognizing the need for a permanent filmmaking studio in the area, constructed the Atlas Film Corporation Studios on the outskirts of town. Other studios have since followed, and a string of Hollywood productions have spent time filming here, including Jewel of the Nile, Kundun, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Alexander the Great, Kingdom of Heaven, and Babel. Atlas remains the biggest and busiest of the town's film studios and is generally open to visitors for a tour of some of the old construction sets. It's really only for movie buffs, and some of the sets are in dire need of maintenance, but it's a fun way to spend 30 minutes and borders on a surreal experience as you walk past a Tibetan monastery and an Egyptian temple.