Ouarzazate, the Hollywood of Africa

Ouarzazate is the Gateway to the Sahara, located at the feet of the Atlas mountain range, at an altitude of 1160 metres, in the valley where the Draa and Dadès rivers meet. It's a crossroads of Saharan roads and a passageway for caravans transporting goods arriving from Sudan. Its spectacular, diverse landscapes are well worth seeing.

Today it is eminently a tourist city, capital of the Souss-Massa-Drâa region, a commercial and military centre. It is known for the hospitality of its Berber population and has a rich, varied folklore.

Tourist attractions

Tourist development has led to the range of leisure facilities available today: large hotels, golf courses, riding centres, craft cooperatives, an airport, etc. There's a modern conference centre set up for large company events and a magnificent range of accommodation in hotels, rural houses and campsites.

The city extends along the Mohamed V Avenue, with numerous shops, hotels and restaurants. It's an adobe-coloured city, very open and clean, its centre being the large Al Mouahidine square.

It's the ideal starting point to visit the nearby Dadès and Todra valleys, the road of the thousand kasbahs, the great Atlas mountain range, the Draa valley and the Sahara.

Additionally, sports events such as the "Gateway to the Desert" Ouarzazate International Ultra-Marathon, which takes place in the city and surrounding area, are held here.

 

Getting to Ouarzazate

To get there by car, you have to cross the Atlas Mountains from Marrakesh, 205 km away, or from Errachidia, 300 kilometres away, on the road of the kasbahs.

One bus a day from Inezgane (close to Agadir) and three a day from Marrakesh depart to Ouarzazate.

Another option is to catch a “grand taxi” which works out quite cheap.

There are also flight connections from Casablanca and occasional flights to Agadir and other nearby cities.

 

What to see in the city

In the city

In the centre of the city is Morocco's largest kasbah which in the past belonged to El Glaoui, Pasha of Marrakech. It has recently been renovated, is built from adobe and stands out for its impressive towers. The UNESCO has declared it a World Heritage Site.

It's a very picturesque place, in fact a lot of films have been filmed here, such as Gladiator and more recently, the well-known series Game of Thrones.

Opposite the kasbah is the Museum of Cinema, together with a handcraft centre.

The Tifoultout Kasbah

This kasbah is 7 km away on the road to Marrakesh, surrounded by palm trees and with great views over the city. Opposite it is a stream that tends to be almost dry in the summer. It is often used as a backdrop for films.

Atlas Film Studios

Ouarzazate is also known as "The Hollywood of Africa". Here you’ll find the best studio in the world and the desert, oases, kasbahs and the snowy Atlas Mountains offer the ideal location for outdoor scenes for films and series.

You can visit the studios where films like Banzai, Gladiator, Hidalgo, Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra, Lawrence of Arabia, Star Wars and The Mummy were all filmed.

Oasis of Fint

10km to the South of Ouarzazate you’ll find this green oasis amongst the black, arid rocks of the mountains. It has various tourist establishments, ideal for relaxing in the desert.

El Manssur Dam

This is the perfect place for bird watching. In the area there are hotels and riads, as well as the Club Med and Royal Golf.

[Translate to English:] Otros lugares de interés más alejados

[Translate to English:] Hacia el este, está el palmeral y el valle del Dade, un oasis fresco a la sombra de las palmeras datileras, y numerosos árboles frutales. En él podemos encontrar variadas kasbahs espectaculares, y pertenece a la ruta de las mil kasbahs. Es el lugar ideal para practicar recorridos en 4x4, bicicleta, senderismo, a caballo en, mulas, etc. O bien pasar noches de ensueño en tiendas de campaña en medio del oasis.

Hacia el norte, subiendo la cordillera, está la Kasbah de Ait Benhaddou, patrimonio de la humanidad. Ha sido escenario de grandes producciones de Hollywood.

Hacia el sur, en la ruta de los oasis que sigue el  valle del Drâa, abundan las kasbahs,  destacar la de Tissergate, con su  Museo de Artes, Tradiciones y de la Artesanía Bereber.

[Translate to English:] Compras en Ouarzazate

[Translate to English:] Cualquier recuerdo que compres en Ouarzazate y sus alrededores seguro será más barato que en Marrakech o Fez. Es importante recordar que todo en Marruecos es negociable. Hay un zoco y algunas tiendas locales.

La ciudad alberga talleres donde se fabrican y comercializan objetos de piedra, cerámica y alfombras. Las alfombras de Ouarzazate y sus alrededores son muy estimadas.

La cerámica bereber es sencilla, generalmente hecha con arcilla blanca decorada. También es típica la artesanía en caña con la que fabrican cabeceros de cama naturales, objetos ornamentales, estanterías, mesas, sillas, cestas, etc.

Es típica también la joyería bereber en plata incrustada o esmaltada, como brazaletes, colgantes y diferentes tipos de collares.

En los alrededores lo típico son las Dagas.