Marrakech: An overview - Part 32

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Marrakech: An overview - Part 32

Road trips out of Marrakech – continued,

The Kasbah at Aït Benhaddou is off the main route but is on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites and is one of the best preserved of all the kasbahs in the Atlas Mountains. It is also the most famous, thanks to its popularity with visiting film producers. It has been seen in dozens of movies taking on different roles; these have included Lawrence of Arabia, The Last Temptation of Christ, The Mummy, Gladiator and Alexander. Much of the appeal with this site lies in the location. The Kasbah was built in layers down a hillside beside the Ouarzazate River. This provides a dramatic view of the whole site which is still partially inhabited by ten families.

Kasbah Tiffoultoute is back on the main route and is another Kasbah that once belonged to the Glaoui, it is situated just outside of Ouarzazate. Although parts of it are crumbling away, another section has been rebuilt and serves as a hotel and restaurant. The location is beautiful and is situated dramatically between a river and a palm oasis. This is a place that is worth stopping for a meal.

Ouarzazate is the so-called “Gateway to the Sahara”. It is the busy, administrative hub of a region with spectacular mountain and desert scenery and is quite a large town of around 60, 000 people. Most visitors tend to spend at least one night here before pushing on south to the desert proper or heading east to the Dadès Valley and beyond. The number of hotels in the town is always increasing and are constantly improving their quality. There are plenty of interesting activities here, from camel-trekking and quad biking to visiting the film studios for which the town is renowned. Those studios are the Atlas Corporation Studios and have helped the town become the centre of the Moroccan film industry. Atlas Corporation Studios are located about 4 miles north of the town so are quite easy to get to. They were built specifically to provide some infrastructure, including sound stages and sets, for movies. You can go on tours around the sets when no film shoots are in progress. It’s well worth dropping in to see sets like the Tibetan monastery built for Kundun and Egyptian temple sets from French production, Asterix and Cleopatra. More recently they have been used for Game of Thrones, The Mummy and a car race with Jeremy Clarkson in The Grand Tour. A yellow bus shuttles between the studio and Ouarzazate’s main street the Avenue Mohammed V.

Kasbah Taourirt is the main landmark of Ouarzazate. It is a large Kasbah that used to belong to the Glaoui clan. A few parts of it are still inhabited and some of the abandoned sections have been carefully restored. It’s quite a nice place to just wander about. It has an atmosphere and as you wander down the narrow alleys you get a real sense of what life was like in this part of the world many years ago.

Continued in part 33

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Page added on: 27 May 2018
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