Casbahs & Oases

Ouarzazate, Morocco

Casbahs & Oases

Nicknamed ‘The door of the desert’, Ouarzazate is a city and capital of the Ouarzazate Province in the Souss-Massa-Drâa of southern-central Morocco. The Ouarzazate area is viewed by many travelers as the gateway to the Sahara. Deserts, oases, casbahs, mountains and valleys make up the surrounding landscape. The main local residents are Berbers, and they are the creators of the many casbahs and iconic buildings for which this area is known. They are also very well known for their amazing handwoven carpets, with some of the larger ones taking over a year to create.

Ouarzazate as a city may not seem notable at first impression… but it kinda grows on you! It has a charm that is hard to describe. It has a mellow, relaxed pace, the people are very warm and friendly, there’s never any traffic, and once you stay there for a bit you get the lay of the town. Amazing, delicious fresh fruit juice for $1, any flavor you like (peach, orange, pear, avocado, banana). Delicious fresh  baked pastries and espresso coffee at Habous in the city square. I tended to eat many a meal there. 

Speaking of coffee, you might be surprised that Morocco actually has excellent coffee. And on top of that, it’s even available at the most rinky-dink, hole-in-the-wall cafes and restaurants. They may serve a very llimited offering of food… or no food at all. But there’s a high chance they will serve you up a piping hot, full-flavored espresso coffee. The secret to getting a delicious coffee anywhere in Morocco are these two words: noos noos. It’s Arabic for ‘half half,’ which means half coffee, half steamed milk. All this translates into a little mini latte, and is very similar to a cafe con leche in Spain. You will likely get some sideways glances and confused looks when you try to annunciate CAPP-O-CHINO… but as soon as you say noos noos, they’re faces light up and they know exactly what to serve you! One noos noos might be enough for some, but I usually prefer two 🙂 Three is not completely unheard of… But I’m a bit of a coffee nut 🙂

The striking desert landscape that surround Quarzazate, and proximity it’s to the Sahara have resulted in it being home to quite a few film studios. Atlas Studios is one of the largest, with some of the most famous movies ever made having been filmed here. Classics such as Lawrence of Arabia and Cleopatra, and more recently Babel and Gladiator all shot scenes in this part of Morocco. Aït Benhaddou casbah will stand out the most. It has been used in nearly 20 films, including Kundun, The Mummy, Gladiator, Prince of Persia, and The Last Temptation of Christ.

GOT_pt2.1While staying here, I visited Fint Oasis which also was just used in season 3 of the epic HBO TV seres, Game Of Thrones. I nearly fainted when I saw the landscape I had just visited in the middle of the show! They enhanced with a little CG, added a city to the horizon. Click on the thumbnail to the right to see a detailed pic which breaks down where they were standing, and which pic I am referring to. 

Also while visiting Aït Benhaddou, japanese rock band Acidman were there filming a music video. You can see shots of them in the gallery below. I tried to find a link to the completed video… but my lack of knowledge regarding the Japanese language didn’t get me too far 😉