Ouarzazate Morocco

The Atlas Mountains stretch for a length of 2,500 kilometres (1,600 miles) across north western Africa, beginning in Morocco. The mountains act as a buffer which separate the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea from the Sahara Desert. Located in the High Atlas is the province and city which share the name Ouarzazate. The population here consists mainly of Berbers, a North African indigenous group.

The city has a very interesting architectural style that is typically Arabic, being built from mud brick, with many of the most prominent buildings being Kasbahs, which are large fortresses, or citadels, that were built by prominent families as a means of protection.

Due to its fortunate location, Ouarzazate has always been a central place for trade, being located at the crossroads of many trade routes from the days when camel caravans were common. The town is quite high, at an altitude of 1,160 metres (3,810 ft) and is situated on a broad plateau where water was accessible and oases able to flourish.

One of the surprising aspects of the town is the film studios to be found there. Atlas Studios is the best known of them, and a number of well known movies have been filmed in them over a long period of time. The Atlas Studios are 4 kilometres from the town centre and movies that have been filmed there include Lawrence of Arabia, Cleopatra, The Man Who Would Be King, Babel and Gladiator, all of which are films of some consequence. You can tour the studios, where you can see some of the sets from the mentioned films. Bear in mind though, that it is a movie studio, not a theme park, so some of the sets are no longer in pristine shape.

The other studio is CLA, which is not far from Atlas. This studio hasn’t made as many good films as Atlas, but has kept its sets in better condition.

Other places to visit in the town are the Taourirt Kasbah Museum, which is a genuine ancient Kasbah where you can wander the narrow streets, although you may find you will get hassled by guides who will want to be paid for showing you around.

Another interesting place to visit is the Ksar of ait Benhaddou, which is a picturesque fortified village about 30kms from the town that is built from mud brick. It contains several Kasbahs and has both the look and feel of a typical desert fort.

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