A Cinephile’s Guide To Morocco
This north African country should frankly be on everyone’s bucket list. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more exciting, scenic, and safe country to visit in this unique part of the world. The history and natural beauty alone make this a top ten destination…but did you know that Morocco is also a favorite stop for movie studios?
No matter what genre or era your sweet spot is, I can guarantee that at least one of your favorite movies (or even just a movie you may have heard of) was filmed in Morocco. From spooky gas stations to historic pirate fortresses to an ancient city, here are some awesome movie sets you can visit right now:
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Tifoultoute Kasbah: Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
Released in 1962, director David Lean’s epic historical drama is a quintessential piece of British cinema. The film follows Peter O Toole’s T.E Lawrence, a British lieutenant in World War I who participates in the Allied campaign in Ottoman-controlled Hejaz and Greater Syria. As the war rages on, the already incendiary and standoffish Lawrence struggles with the violence of the conflict and his own British allies. As he gets buddy-buddy with members of nearby Arab tribes, he questions his own identity and role in the conflict.
Lawrence of Arabia has a hefty runtime of 227 minutes (almost four hours), but I still recommend you take some (or a lot of) time to watch it. It’s been praised as one of the best films ever made, and the American Film Institute has placed it as high as #5 in their top 100 movies of all-time list.
Once you’ve seen it, book your trip to Morocco and head on over to Tifoultoute Kasbah in Ouarzazate. At first glance, this might just look like a rundown desert fortress, but this Kasbah actually deserves its own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for its use as a filming location in Lawrence of Arabia.
Kasbah of the Udayas: Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015)
If there’s any movie series that can get you in the mood for travel, it has to be Mission Impossible. Tom Cruise’s iconic portrayal of daredevil IMF agent Ethan Hunt has excited audiences for over two decades, and he and his cast of friends have had adventures in places all over the world. Who could ever forget the blood-pumping Beijing car chase in Mission Impossible III, or Ethan Hunt’s gravity-defying climb of the Burj Khalifa in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, or the helicopter pursuit through the peaks of Kashmir in Mission Impossible: Fallout?
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation similarly takes the audience on a whirlwind tour of the world, as Ethan Hunt tracks down the mysterious and sinister Solomon Lane, leader of an underground criminal organization known as the Syndicate. One of those stops? Morocco, specifically the city of Casablanca.
One of the movie’s most exciting scenes — a dramatic vehicular chase through Casablanca — is partially filmed at the Kasbah of the Udayas. This exuberant fortress along the coast once served as a Barbary pirate stronghold, even serving as the capital of a short-lived pirate republic (“pirate” and “republic” seem like oxymorons, but trust me on this). Today, it is a living reminder of the days of the Barbary Pirates and their dominance over the sea, and is surrounded by some of Morocco’s best marketplaces.
You’ll have the opportunity to ascend the same stairs that Ethan Hunt and partner Benji Dunn (played by Simon Pegg) bump down in their car of choice during the vehicle chase scene. It’s very unlikely you’ll encounter an IMF agent driving his car down these steps…but we recommend getting out of the way if you do!
‘Hills Have Eyes’ Gas Station – The Hills Have Eyes (2006)
This 2006 remake of the Wes Craven classic with the same name largely follows the same plot as the original. An American family traveling across the desert state of Nevada is targeted by hordes of cannibalistic mutants after their car breaks down. Spooky and gruesome, the remake was so violent in its original release that it was given the highly rare NC-17 rating by the Motion Picture Association, but would later be edited down to an R-rating.
Early in the film, the family stops at a gas station to ask for directions, where the elderly caretaker advises them to take a different route. Upon taking this alternate route, however, a hidden spike strip takes out their car and trailer, setting the events of the movie into motion.
You can visit the abandoned gas station set where this scene was filmed…but it’s not in Nevada. It’s located in the outskirts of Ouarzazate right here in Morocco. The gas station features props from the movie, in addition to other eerie accouterments from old rusting cars to some truly spooky puppets on display.
You might not get attacked by mutants (at least, I hope that doesn’t happen), but you will get chills down your spine as you explore this bizarre movie set in the middle of the desert.
Essaouira Citadel – John Wick 3: Parabellum (2019)
Is Essaouira Citadel a worthy stop on your Moroccan vacation? In the words of legendary action icon John Wick: “yeah.”
If you haven’t heard of John Wick, you clearly haven’t been near a TV or movie theater in the past eight years. Keanu Reeves’ portrayal of a violent, tragic ex-assassin forced back into the game when his dog is killed has drawn fans of action movies and movies in general for almost a decade, and each addition to the series ups the ante in terms of creative fight sequences. In the third movie, Wick kills an assassin nearly twice his height with a single book. In the second film, he kills another assassin with only a pencil.
In the third edition of the series, John travels to Morocco in order to meet the mysterious “Elder,” who alone stands above the High Table of Assassins. Here, he is forced to team up with fellow assassin Sofia in an exciting shootout with a horde of rival assassins. This conflict is filmed in the historic Essaouira Citadel, a key part of the UNESCO World Heritage-worthy old city district of Essaouira, and a favorite spot for fishermen to pull up their boats.
Erg Chebbi – John Wick 3: Parabellum (2019)
John Wick is able to meet with the “Elder,” but only after traveling into the heart of the Sahara. These desert crossing scenes are filmed in the Erg Chebbi dunes, near the city of Erfoud. This windy sea of sand features dunes rising over 150 meters high! Thankfully, you won’t have to worry about riding into the desert to find an assassin mastermind (and if you do, you have much bigger problems than making the perfect itinerary for your Morocco vacation). In fact, there are plenty of options for guided camel tours of this beautiful wonder of the natural world.
Bonus Stop: Cinema Museum
There are far more cinephile adventures to be had in Morocco, so don’t let me stop you from looking up other famous filming locations!
The Cinema Museum is another great place to stop if you want to experience more of Morocco’s extensive cinematic history. Though the place might come off as a bit disorganized, trust me; there is plenty to be found here.
You can hire your own guide, or make the experience a guessing game (since, sadly, there aren’t a lot of placards in place here)! From old movie posters to entire sets from classics such as the aforementioned Lawrence of Arabia, there’s plenty of history to be found in these hallowed halls!
Use Tripio to make your next cinema-inspired itinerary
So there you have it; that’s a rundown of all the best spots for cinema lovers in Morocco! Whether you’re a certified cinephile, a casual fan of the “talkies, or a simple traveler looking for that next great vacation or adventure, Morocco’s many filming locations will take you on a journey that transcends just cinema history; in many ways, these stops capture the history of the entire county in a nutshell.
You can also use the Tripio app to add to your trip, either before travel or while you travel. Using the app, select the plus icon at the bottom of the screen titled “Create.” This will take you to the trip creator, which can create custom top 10 lists and a custom itinerary in under 60 seconds! It’s never been so easy to plan a great adventure or vacation.
Most cinema-inspired locations and other arts and historical stops listed in the app are under the Historical and Cultural category; make sure to give it a 5 for trip importance, to ensure your custom top 10 itinerary has a focus on these activities. To really round out your top 10 itinerary, consider adding Easy or Moderate Adventures to stay in shape on the go, and Good Eats for when you get hungry.
Stop waiting to take that bucket list trip; get Tripio today!
Interested in more of Morocco, check out: Rock The Kasbahs Of Morocco
or something different like: Museums a’ Plenty In The Dominican Republic
-Joshua Faulks, Tripio Guru
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