What to see in Ouarzazate, the Hollywood of Africa
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 Ouarzazate
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.
Nearby places of interest
To the east is the palm grave and Dadès valley, a lush oasis with date palms and fruit-bearing trees. Here, you’ll find many spectacular kasbahs, not surprising as it is on the Road of a Thousand Kasbahs. This is the ideal location to go on a 4x4, bike, hiking, horse or mule adventure, or spend an unforgettable night under the stars in a tent in the middle of the oasis.
To the north, going up the mountains, is the fortified village (ksar) of Aït Benhaddou, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which has been used as the backdrop for big box office hits.To the south, on the route of the oases which follows the valley of the Draa, fortified Berber villages line the way. A particularly noteworthy example is Tissergate with its Berber Arts, Traditions and Crafts Museum.
Shopping in Ouarzazate
You can get souvenirs at the bazaar or local shops in Ouarzazate, where they are sure you be cheaper than in Marrakech or Fez. Don’t forget you should always barter in Morocco.
The city has various workshops where stone items, pottery and rugs are made. In fact, the rugs made in Ouarzazate and the nearby area are well known through Morocco.
Berber pottery is simple and made from decorated white clay. Items made from cane, such as natural headboards, ornaments, bookcases, tables, chairs and baskets, are also typical.
Also worth having a look at is the Berber jewellery on offer, which is made from incrusted or enamelled silver and includes bracelets, pendants and different types of necklaces.
The surrounding area is famous for its daggers.