Located on the Road of 1,000 Kasbahs, Ouarzazate is the location for Atlas Studios, Morocco’s desert-based Hollywood.
Atlas Studios, located just outside the centre of Ouarzazate, has been churning out Hollywood blockbusters since 1983. More than 200 movies have been filmed here – everything from biblical tales to ancient Egyptian fables.
In fact, since so many movies have been made here, Atlas Studios is now one of the world’s biggest film studios – and you can visit it!
But if you are planning to visit and expecting a high-tech, fancy, Hollywood-style studio tour, you will be disappointed. This is very low-key, but if you want to actually walk around, touch real film sets, and listen to an engaging local guide, then go for it.
It is excellent value for money and gives you an interesting insight into North Africa’s film industry.
Some Famous Movies Filmed In Morocco
Many famous movies have been filmed here, such as:
The epic historical drama Gladiator, directed by Ridley Scott in 2000, was partially filmed here and also in my current home country of Malta.
The movie is set in Roman times and tells a story of a once-powerful general forced to become a common gladiator.
This set is from the slave market scene in Gladiator, which also appears as the marketplace in the movie Aladdin.
Babel is a 2006 movie starring Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett.
The film tells of an accident that connects four groups of people on three different continents: two young Moroccan goatherds, an American couple (Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett) on holiday in Morocco, and a Mexican nanny who takes her young charges across a border without parental permission and a deaf Japanese teen and her father.
I remember seeing this movie at the cinema and not having a clue what was going on.
Ben Hur (2016)
The 2016 version of Ben Hur, not the 11 Oscars winning version from 1959 was filmed at Atlas Studios, Ouarzazate. It’s the fifth film adaptation of the 1880 book Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace.
It’s the story of Judah Ben-Hur, a young prince, falsely accused by his step-brother, a Roman army officer, and sent to slavery, only to escape and seek vengeance.
Black Hawk Down (2001)
Black Hawk Down is a war movie directed by Ridley Scott. The film was based on the U.S. military’s 1993 raid in Mogadishu.
The pyramid from the movie The Mummy was also used in Prison Break season 5. I love how so many movie sets are recycled.
And this Egyptian scene appeared in The Mummy, Asterix, Tutankhamen and Cleopatra. I don’t recall the temples in Egypt looking like this though.
Passion of Christ (2004)
The movie Passion of Christ depicts the final twelve hours of the life of Jesus of Nazareth on the day of his crucifixion in Jerusalem.
This set depicts the Via Dolorosa that was built for this movie. For information on what it’s like to really walk along the Via Dolorosa in Old Jerusalem, check this blog post here.
This Tibet scene comes from the movie Kundun, the story of the Dalai Lama. It is based on the life and writings of Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, the exiled political and spiritual leader of Tibet.
Living Daylights (1987)
The Aston Martin car from the James Bond movie Living Daylights starring Timothy Dalton, but it’s just styrofoam!
For a complete list of movies filmed in Ouarzazate, see here.
But What About The Movie Casablanca?
The classic Hollywood movie, Casablanca was not filmed in Morocco but in Burbank, California. However, there is a Rick’s Cafe themed bar in Casablanca which is a fun place for a drink or dinner if you’re in the area.
How Much Does It Cost To Visit Atlas Studios, Ouarzazate
It costs 80 dirhams (about $8) per person to visit Atlas Studios, plus an extra 30 dirhams to see the Kingdom of Heaven set. This price includes a 45-minute to one hour tour around the studios. After the tour, you are free to explore and take photos. There are no concession prices, but children under the age of 5 are free.
From reading the reviews about Atlas Studios, many people rated the Kingdom of Heaven set as a highlight. However, when I visited the studios in February 2023, the Kingdom of Heaven set was closed to visitors as it was being prepped for filming Gladiator 2.
Opening Hours For Atlas Studios, Ouarzazate
Atlas Studios is open daily, including holidays, from 08:30 until sunset.
Is Morocco Hollywood Worth Visiting?
Visiting the film studios was one of many highlights of my two-week tour of Morocco. Our guide Omar, a movie extra who’s appeared in several movies, was friendly and charming as he showed us around. It was a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes.
Yes – Many of the props on display are old, but it’s fun, exciting, and a great way to spend a couple of hours. Avoid visiting on scorching days as there is not much shade.
Visiting Atlas Studios and nearby Ait Ben Haddou as a day trip from Marrakech is possible, but it will be a very long day. I went to the studios as part of an optional activity on this wonderful two-week Morocco tour with Nomadic Tours.
Be Sure To Visit Nearby Ait Ben Haddou
While you’re there, be sure to visit nearby Ait Ben Haddou. The picturesque village of Ait Ben Haddou is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it’s an excellent example of a Saharan ksar. A Ksar is a fortified village made from mud and clay and contains small houses or Kasbahs and a Mosque protected by high walls.
Ait Ben Haddou is a pretty place to explore, and it is also frequently used as a film set and has been used in many movies, including Gladiator, and for all you Game of Thrones fans (I’ve still yet to see an episode), Ait Ben Haddou was the city of Yunkai.
And it’s also home to a community of Berber women producing fabulous carpets and rugs. I would really have loved one, but sadly my budget is more IKEA sale prices.
Want To Stay Where The Movie Stars Stay?
They stay at the 5-star Berbere Palace Hotel in Ouarzazate.
The not so A listers and film crew stay at the Oscar Hotel, which is attached to Atlas Studios. It would be a fun place for movie lovers as the hotel is jam-packed with memorabilia from every movie, actor, celebrity, or producer who has made a movie in Morocco.
For the more budget conscious, such as myself, I stayed at La Rose du Sable, a lovely Moroccan-style hotel with good food and just a short walk to Ait Ben Haddou.
For More Posts On Africa, Check These Out
One Day In Chefchaouen- Morocco’s Blue City
Amazing Pictures of the Temple of Kom Ombo, Egypt
Temple of Isis at Philae, Egypt
Over 50 Travel in Egypt With On the Go Tours
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Never new about Black hawk down. Cool!
Fascinating to visit Atlas Studios in Morocco. I had no idea all the movies that were created here – and some big ones too. Good to know this is a low key tour and good with a local guide.
Great post. I didn’t realise so many movies were made there. I remember while growing up watching movies like Alibaba – I presume that was made in Hollywood not in the beautiful deserts in Morocco!