Ouarzazate – The Door of the Desert
Ourzazate, roughly pronounced as ‘war-zo-zat’, is Morocco’s very own version of Hollywood! This desert city, that leads to the Sahara, has caught the fancy of many Hollywood actors and directors, with the likes of Martin Scorsece and Brad Pitt’s having spent weeks here. It is Hollywood’s favourite destination when it comes to filming any African destination, and this place also doubles up as ancient Rome and Tibet. Movies like The Gladiator, Kingdom of Heaven, and Lawrence of Arabia have been shot here. More recently, the Game of Thrones was filmed here!
Exploring the two film studios Atlas and CLA is therefore a no-brainer when you visit Ourzazate. But there is much more to Ouarzazate, right from the markets to the museums. Travelers who wish to explore the Sahara Desert make it a point to stop at Ouarzazate to both relax and stock their food baskets before heading to the desolate desert.
Ouarzazate is largely a tourist destination, with the local population being a mere 105,000 people. In fact, every year, over 150,000 tourists visit this place, thereby contributing to its income in a huge way. The city is situated in Southern Morocco, but has historically served as a route to traders who have tried to travel to either North Africa or Europe. This entire city is built along a main road known as Muhammad V. The road starts even before the city does, and extends all the way along the end of the city and beyond.
The Kasbah Taourirt Museum is one of the most magnificent things that you should witness once you’re in this small city. It gives you a chance to witness the stunning Moroccon Kasbah styled architecture. Once you are at the top of the Kasbah, you can also enjoy some delightful scenes of the valley. Apart from this, Ait Benhaddou Palace should be on your list of places to visit. Apart from being a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is a collection of various Kasbahs that exemplify earthen clay architecture.
You should take a walk along the old district if you truly want to explore Ouarzazate. The sights and sounds of bread and cakes coming from the bakery, kids playing football in the open, and locals carrying on with their business as usual. If you want to take back some memories of this place, then visiting the market should be on your list too. The marketplace, also traditionally known as souk, is known for selling flavorful spices, colorful clothes, and intricate and designer handicraft items.
Ouarzazate remains relatively quite throughout the year, and should be visited if you are planning to visit the Sahara Desert for a camping excursion.