Ouarzazate

Lawrence of Arabia

The desert’s gateway

“Nour”, in Arabic, means “light”, it is the chosen name for the Arab League’s creation, The Ouarzazate solar power station. December 2015 marks the date of its establishmentd. This massive solar power complex is ten kilometres away from Ouarzazate, in the Drâa-Tafilelt region.

Nicknamed the door of the desert, Ouarzazate is the capital of its province, and a proud home for two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Berbers are the original people of the region. They built prominent Kasbahs and buildings that define the city.

Given that it’s the gateway to the desert, most excursion start from Ouarzazate. Its elevation of 1160 metres literraly puts it on a pedestal. The fortified village of Ait Benhaddou is the World Heritage Site. Many movies were filmed within this village, including Lawrence of Arabia.

The rebellion of the true lords

The other half of Ouarzazate’s pride, Kasbah Taourirt is one of the most beautiful architectural landmarks of the city. The Glaoui tribe, Lords of the Atlas. Have restored the castle in 1882, after it was founded in the 17th-century. 

This ornamented, fortified ‘sandcastle’ never ceases to amaze the visitors with its enormity and detailed carvings. T’hami El Glaoui was the Pasha of Marrakech, and Kasbah Taourirt was his home.

During the reign of Mohammed V, the Glaouis rebelled against the King of Morocco; when the kingdom was under French protectorate. The village itself was founded in the 12th-century, and still boasts a gorgeous medina that can be visited by anyone.

Also declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kasbah Taourirt helps Ouarzazate spread its authentic Kasbahs and Berber heritage. And because of that, many studios were established in Ouarzazate.

Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou

One of Ouarzazate’s two World Heritage Sites, Kasbah Ait-Benhaddou attracts tourists, locals, and Hollywood directors. This fortified village is on the route between the Sahara and Marrakech. There are a few families living in these villages, and they get to be smitten with Ait-Benhaddou’s natural appeal everyday. 

The Message, Marco Polo, and Kundun were all shot in Ait-Benhaddou, in addition to other Hollywood blockbusters. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987, and it has been shining with glory since then.

A massive, bright future.

Noor Solar Energy Plantation is Ouarzazate’s solar power complex, located in the Drâa-Tafilelt region - ten kilometers from Ouarzazate. The total project cost nine billion dollars. The project,, at maximum capacity and peak, is expected to produce over 579 MW. 

It is one of Morocco’s bigger projects, and it is estimated to fix many issues that Morocco is currently going through.

A castly hotel

Tifeltout Kasbah belonged to T’hami El Glaoui, former Pasha of Marrakech, and the Atlas’ true Lord. Scenes from the movie Lawrence of Arabia were shot in the Tifeltout Kasbah.

Part of the Lord’s Kasbah was converted to a hotel-restaurant. Needless to say, gazing into the yonder from above will make you feel you’re within a Game of Thrones episode

Authenticity in film

Moroccan entrepreneur, Mohammed Belghmi, founded the Atlas Studios in Ouarzazate. It is 5 kilometres to the west, and for that, the Studio was a perfect backdrop for many Hollywood movies. Atlas studios also happen to be one of the largest film studios in the world

Belghmi realised the appeal of the property’s vast desert and mountains. They ended making for amazing backdrops for Hollywood blockbusters. 

Renowned movies such as; The Last Temptation of Christ, Fishing in Yemen, Lawrence of Arabia, The Mummy, Gladiator, Legionnaire, the cult classic, Hills Have Eyes, and the all-time favourite -Game of Thrones.

Thanks to the area’s climate and weather conditions, Atlas Studios expanded tremendously since it was founded in 1983.

 

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