Moroccan Hollywood, and a Sneaky Road

Saturday was our last day on the road, and I was never so glad to get out of a vehicle. If you want to see the landscape of Morocco, there’s simply no other way, but oh my.


We left our hotel in the Dades Gorge, full once more of good food and mint tea. But really, everything tastes better in a gorge, n’est-ce pas?


I was feeling pretty sick and congested, and spent the rest of the day stemming the steady flow emanating from my nose (just one nostril – the right one. Like a faucet.) Every time we stopped I had to clear poor Ismail’s car out of used tissues – handfuls and handfuls. Ugh.

After breakfast, it was on to Ourzazate, the Hollywood of Morocco. There are 2 movie studios in the town, and the sets and surrounding areas have been used for many well-known films (such as the Mummy, Gladiator, Jewel of the Nile, etc) and most recently Game of Thrones.

pixlr_20160403205941130.jpg“Argh, these fake rocks are sooooo heavy!”


As I walked around, I knew the town and the sets looked familiar, but it wasn’t just from seeing it on screen. I felt like I’d seen it somewhere else before… and then it hit me. Disney World! The Moroccan section of Epcot looks exactly like the Casbah in Ourzazate, and the Indiana Jones section in Hollywood Studios as well. It makes sense – with Ourzazate’s prominence in film, of course Disney would use the town as a model to recreate such scenery in their parks. Then I was reminded of my first visit to Epcot at 15, and strangely, I think it was the Moroccan section that first piqued my interest in the country. I remember I bought an ankle bracelet with bells on it; I still have it.


Just 30 minutes from Ourzazate is Ait Ben Haddou, which Sarah had been really looking forward to. It’s a very well-preserved 11th century town and casbah, and affords a panoramic view of the surrounding areas. It is a UNESCO world heritage site, and preservation is ongoing.




IMG_20160402_160026663Yup, that’s my finger in the photo. Too tired to crop it out.


On the way out of Ait Ben Haddou, we stopped at yet another rug store, this one a collective run by and for local women, who make and sell the rugs. These are the same rugs destined for the shop we first went to in Fes, but since we were there at the source, they were much cheaper. We got to see the women actually making rugs, and I even got to make a knot myself. She may well have taken it out once I left, but I like to think that in a few months, this rug will be finished, and I will have made 1 of the million knots that comprise it.


Pro tip: if you want to know whether a rug is made by hand or machine, simply tug on some of the yarn/strings. If they come out, it’s machine made. Fibers in a hand-knotted rug will not come out.

It should go without saying that we bought more rugs. We really put the poor manager through his paces, going through his storeroom of smaller rugs. I came out with 3 flung over my shoulder to see them better in the light, and Keith shook his head. “She’s made herself right at home.” And I had. When it came time to decide the price, I warned the manager right off what the man in the Fes tannerie had told me – I was going to haggle like a real Berber girl. “Ah,” the manager said, “then I should have given you the real Berber price, which would have been more expensive!” With a combination of haggling in French on my part, an agreement to pay in cash, and a firm stare and handshake from Isa, we settled on a price.

Then came the final stretch of our journey, up through the High Atlas mountains on narrow, winding roads. The twists and turns finally got to Isa, and I insisted he switch to the front seat. “This is a very sneaky road,” he said. The three of us in the back looked at each other, wondering if this was another instance of Isa’s charming translations from Turkish to English. “Do you mean… snaky? Like a snake?” we asked. “Ah yes, SNAKY… but also sneaky.” We agreed the road was indeed sneaky.


These are not great photos, but they will give you a sense of the landscape we were driving through.IMG_20160402_190014542

When we finally arrived in Marrakech around 9:30pm, we looked quite a ragtag group. Our careful packing had gone to hell in a handbasket when we had had to hastily repack for the desert, and we were now loaded down with 4 packages of rugs and a lantern each. The kind owners at our hotel, Riad al Nour, had arranged to have a late dinner for us, which we fell on as if starved. The white Riad cat, Bon-Bon, curled himself around my rear end on my chair, and for the first time since we had left Fes, we really settled in. Our little riad, with its courtyard, fountain, and bohemian décor, already felt like home.

1 comment on “Moroccan Hollywood, and a Sneaky RoadAdd yours →

  1. You KNOW what that sneaky road would have done to me! I can’t wait to see your treasures and more pictures. I’d love to have seen Isa’s “stern look” at the rug shop! Sorry that the cold has settled in your nose; I don’t suppose you have any Vicks salve to put on your socked feet @ bedtime? Grandma Merle remedy!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *