Ouarzazate – اورزازات

Morocco has encouraged film production since Mohammed VI became king in 1999 and thanks to cheap labor and beautiful landscapes that can be passed off as just about anywhere, the film industry has become big business. Ouarzazate is home to Atlas Studios, the largest film studio in the world. More than half of the city’s population is or has been employed by the film industry in one way or another, from set designers to extras. Gladiator, Lawrence of Arabia, and Star Wars are just a few of the many films shot in and around Ouarzazate.

We visited the cinema museum and played around on some old movie sets. Close up, mosaics were screen prints pasted on balsa wood and golden thrones were plastic and hollow.

Across the street from the cinema museum is the kasbah, or fortress.

The Kasbah

The kasbah is a network of walkways and rooms, some with beautiful views.

View from the kasbah

In the afternoon, itching for some physical activity, we rented bikes with the goal of reaching the water reservoir seen in the picture above. It was rumored that the king was staying somewhere in the area we rode through, and guards were posted every so often along the road. At one point, the guards stood at attention, saluting. I like to think that the king passed us in his car, or that Ouarzazate considered us very important tourists. When cars and large trucks weren’t zooming past, forcing us off the paved road onto the gravel shoulder, the ride through the stunning landscape was peaceful. The sun set quickly over the red craggy earth as we rode back into town.

The next morning we set off to Essaouira via Marrakech, a full six or seven hours by bus.

Did I mention Morocco's beautiful landscapes? More of it through the Tizi n'Tichka pass

En route we stopped in a small town and popped into an Argan oil cooperative. The Argan tree looks kind of like an olive tree and Argan nuts even look similar to olives. The trees once covered all of north Africa but now only grow in southwest Morocco. I’ve seen pictures of goats in these trees, eating the argan nuts. Apparently locals used to collect the undigested argan pits from the goat’s poo. Now, the pits are processed by machines. The women at the cooperative process the oil (which is used for cooking and cosmetic purposes) in the traditional way: by first cracking the pits with rocks before grinding them with a stone press.

Argan oil production by the traditional method

About Laura McAdams

Laura McAdams is a Master’s student at University of Pennsylvania studying International Educational Development. Her experience in the MENA region includes 15 months as a Fulbright student researcher to Fez and Ifrane, Morocco in 2010 and 2011. Her project was interested in understanding the disconnect between the policies of technology usage in education and the reality of how these policies unfold in the classroom. Summer 2012 she returned to the Middle Atlas mountains of Morocco to work with a women’s weaving cooperative. She is excited to learn more about other countries in the MENA region and issues involving education policy and reform, technology usage in curriculums and gender equality in education. One of Laura’s lifelong goals is to one day be able to sit down and leisurely read a newspaper in Arabic.
This entry was posted in Fulbright Student Research in Morocco, 2010-2011, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Ouarzazate – اورزازات

  1. I think I could even handle a 6-7 hour bus ride with a view like the one above. Gorgeous!

  2. James Cameron says:

    Our driver took the turns like he was training for NASCAR, but only had one close call with an oncoming truck.


    From an earlier post. Ha, thank god only ONE such encounter!

    Great photos, great narrative, Laura.

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