Ouarzazate: Gate to the Sahara

At one stage in your travels in Morocco, you’re bound to set foot in Ouarzazate, the main base and access point to the great southern routes. To the North of the town, are the dramatic desert scenery, outlandish Kasbahs and turreted Ksours of the Dades Valley. In the southern side, on the ridge of the Anti-Atlas, is the Draa Valley – an incredible stretch of 125km of palm oases.

Ouarzazate itself, as a town, is not particularly compelling. It is a relatively small town, with a population of only 40,000. However, it has known a tourism boom since the 1980’s and as such there is a great deal of luxury hotels to cater for tourists looking for the ultimate “Saharan Adventure”.

The town has also been paid particular attention by movie makers, as a great deal of blockbuster films were filmed around here. There is Lawrence of Arabia, shot by David Lean in nearby Ait Benhaddou in 1962, numerous Bernardo Bertolucci films and the Sheltering Sky (1990). More recently, Ridley Scott shot the Gladiator here in 1999. Movie fans can enjoy the sets used in these blockbusters at the Atlas Film Studios on the outskirts of town.