You can be forgiven for never having heard of Ouzazate – we hadn’t either. In fact it took us all our time to be able to pronounce it (Ou is pronounced as Wa). Believe it or not it is a rather well known location though and advertised locally as Morocco’s little Hollywood, having allegedly been the go to location for Lawrence of Arabia, The Living Daylights, The Mummy and Gladiator, along with Game of Thrones (is it me or does Game Of Thrones seem to have been shot almost everywhere?). Anyway this area is also claiming a piece of the action and because of it drawing in hundreds of tourists. Obviously where there are tourists there is money to be made and Ouzazate is no exception when trying to get it’s share of the tourists buck.
There are several things to do and visit when in the area and No1 on a lot of visitors lists are the two film studios which are open to the public. Some of the sets have been preserved while others are constantly being built and then knocked down again to make way for the next one. Now we don’t have first hand experience of either of the studios as decided against doing a tour for no other reason than the reviews we read were not exactly glowing and we didn’t want to spoil the magic and our memories of film classics by seeing a used set made of polystyrene and now crumbling from being posed in front of by over enthusiastic film wannabees. Do let us know though if you’ve visited previously and have a view of it good or bad, as this won’t be our last time in Morocco.
In addition to being the hub of the Moroccan movie industry, the area surrounding Ouzazate is home to intriguing kasbahs – both decaying and restored that make it a destination well worth stopping for.
Kasbah Taourirt is a citadel in the centre and walkable from the municipal campsite. It was the official residence of the Glaoui family who owned the valuable trade routes between Marrakech and the Sahara. Their powerful stronghold on this important economic belt allowed them to build the formidable Taourirt which was probably the largest of their kasbahs and the restored buildings are still impressive today and so worth the 40 MAD (€4) entrance fee.
Inside there are true maze of passageways, staircases and rooms that draw visitors deeper and deeper inside a labyrinth, you wonder whether you’ll find your way out of. Some rooms still have intricate plasterwork, painted stucco and intriguing mosaics so it’s worth wandering freely around the whole maze of rooms until you come across those of greater visual interest.
Painted Ceilings and ornate windows in the Taourirt Kasbah
After wandering through the interesting collection of tiny rooms, check out some of the very good local art for sale in a few of the rooms near the exit, we picked up a gift and a souvenir from here knowing they were both unique and unusual finds.
The sizeable town is also host to a weekly Sunday Souk – think carboot sale with fresh produce. In my opinion the local souks are the best. You can spend hours wandering slowly past the collection of stalls selling everything from new teapots, saucepans and plasticwear to rusty old tools that would have been long condemned to the scrap heap in the western world.
As a keen cook though the best part of these markets for me is the fresh produce, and shopping for it is all part of the experience. You will see stall after stall of fresh fruit and veg, eggs, old ladies selling freshly baked bread and sometimes even livestock either for me or to trade.
I normally head for those stalls that are busy with locals, you really can’t go wrong then. At the fresh produce stalls you then grab a washing up bowl or basket and fill it with your desired purchases. The vendor will then weigh the whole thing and let you know how much it is. A simple process and often just a couple of pounds for two or three bags of goodies.
The town also has a small indoor souk which is open daily and a Carrefour supermarket, so we were able to stock up fully on goodies here (including lardons which we were surprised to see in a Muslim country).
A typical Morocan Souk
This was where we also said goodbye to Jan and Trevor who were now on their way north having arrived in Morocco a month before us. We had a magnificent last supper together where a truly joint cooking effort came together to produce a meal of huge T bone steaks (fortunately for us Jan knew exactly which bit of the cow the butcher needed to cut for us to get these), triple cooked chips (naughty but gorgeously scrumptious), balanced with a fresh crisp salad. We are going to miss travelling with these guys and in particular Fanny Cradock’s fabulous cooking and McGyver’s practical skills.After meeting in Hungary, Slovenia England and now Morocco, I wonder which country we will meet in next?
Before embarking on our Morocco trip we’d agreed to slow our travels down and take time to immerse ourselves in a place rather than constantly moving on every couple of days. We did this at Ouzazate managing a 5 night stay there.
Municiple Camping Ouzazate )GPS 30.92289 –6.886821) centrally located camping with clean facilities and hot showers (we think these were solar though so tended to shower in the afternoon when we knew they’d be hot). There is a drive over grid for grey emptying and accessible water filling as well as good EHU (not always so in Morocco). Cost was 90 MAD per night (€9) per night. No washing machines here but sinks for hand washing. Reception didn’t really speak English so we got by in French instead.
Next Stop Taradant.