Ouarzazate: Moroccan Hollywood -A Complete Beginners Guide

Ouarzazate, a city located in the southeastern region of Morocco, is a hidden touristic location waiting to be discovered.


Nestled at the foot of the Atlas Mountains and surrounded by stunning landscapes, Ouarzazate offers a unique blend of natural beauty, rich history, and vibrant culture. Whether you’re a history enthusiast, an adventure seeker, or a culture lover, Ouarzazate has something to offer for everyone.

Where is Ouarzazate located (map)

Ouarzazate is situated in the central-southern part of Morocco, approximately 200 kilometers southeast of the bustling city of Marrakech. The city lies in the Draa-Tafilalet region and serves as the gateway to the Sahara Desert. Its strategic location makes it a vital stop for travelers exploring the Moroccan desert and its surrounding wonders.

Important Update about the Region of Ouarzazate: We understand that recent news of an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.8 in Morocco may have raised concerns for tourists. We want to reassure you that while there were some areas in Ouarzazate that experienced destruction, the majority of its beautiful touristic places remain untouched, thankfully. Furthermore, we are pleased to inform you that touristic activities have resumed just three weeks after the incident. Your safety and enjoyment are our utmost priorities, and we assure you that measures have been taken to ensure your visit to Ouarzazate is as pleasant and memorable as ever. We stand ready to welcome you with open arms to experience the rich culture, stunning landscapes, and warm hospitality that make Ouarzazate such a remarkable destination.

How to get to Ouarzazate from Marrakech

  • Reach Ouarzazate By Road: 

The most common way to reach Ouarzazate from Marrakech is by road. The journey takes about 4-5 hours, depending on road conditions and traffic. The scenic drive offers picturesque views of the High Atlas Mountains, making it a memorable experience. You can hire a private taxi, join a tour, or take a bus from Marrakech to Ouarzazate.

  • Reach Ouarzazate By Air

For those seeking a quicker option, you can also fly from Marrakech to Ouarzazate. Ouarzazate Airport (OZZ) serves domestic flights from major cities in Morocco. The flight takes approximately 1 hour, providing a convenient alternative for travelers with limited time.

Things to do in Ouarzazate – Best Places To Visit

Ouarzazate offers a myriad of attractions and activities for visitors to enjoy. Here are some of the best places to visit and things to do:

1. Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou


Explore the UNESCO-listed Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou, a fortified village with ancient mud-brick buildings featured in numerous films and TV shows.

2. Atlas Film Studios


Visit the Atlas Film Studios, the “Hollywood of the Sahara,” where many famous movies, including “Gladiator” and “Game of Thrones,” were filmed.

3. Taourirt Kasbah

taourirt-kasbah - Ouarzazate

Discover the historical Taourirt Kasbah, an impressive citadel showcasing traditional Moroccan architecture.

4. Draa Valley

Draa Valley-Ouarzazate

Take a scenic drive through the lush Draa Valley, known for its stunning palm groves and kasbahs.

5. Desert Excursions


Embark on a desert adventure with camel treks or 4×4 tours to explore the mesmerizing Sahara Desert and its breathtaking dunes, and if you are looking for the best photography spots in Ait ben Haddou, click here to discover them now!!.

What is the best time to visit Ouarzazate?

The best time to visit Ouarzazate is during the spring (March to May) and autumn (September to November) when the weather is pleasant and temperatures are moderate.

Summer (June to August) can be scorching, while winter (December to February) can be chilly, especially in the evenings. Consider your preferred climate and activities when planning your trip. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind for beginner travelers to Ait Ben Haddou in Morocco.

Where to stay in Ouarzazate – Best Hotels and Accommodations

Ouarzazate offers a range of accommodation options to suit different budgets and preferences. Some of the best hotels include:

1. Berbère Palace Ouarzazate

  • A luxurious palace-style hotel offering excellent amenities and stunning views.

2. Riad Dar Rita – Ouarzazate

  • A charming riad with a traditional Moroccan ambiance.

Riad Dar Rita - ouarzazate

3. Le Temple des Arts

  • A boutique hotel with unique décor and a serene atmosphere.


4.L’Ma Lodge

  • For a unique experience, consider staying in a Riad surrounded with beautiful palm trees in the midst of the Sahara.

Is Ouarzazate worth visiting?

Absolutely! Ouarzazate’s unique blend of history, culture, and natural beauty makes it a must-visit destination in Morocco.

Whether you’re a film enthusiast, an adventurer, or a history buff, Ouarzazate has something special to offer.


How To Plan A Trip To Ouarzazate

Planning a trip to Ouarzazate can be an exciting endeavor.

Here’s A Step-By-Step Guide To Help You Plan Your Visit To Ouarzazate:

  • Research: Start by researching Ouarzazate’s attractions, activities, and accommodations. This will help you create an itinerary that suits your interests and preferences.
  • Choose the right time: Consider the weather and crowd levels when deciding the best time to visit. Spring (March to May) and fall (September to November) are generally recommended for pleasant weather and fewer tourists.
  • Set your budget: Determine your budget for accommodations, transportation, meals, and activities. This will help you make informed decisions and prioritize your expenses.
  • Book flights: If you’re traveling from abroad, book your flights to Morocco. Marrakech is the nearest major city with international flight connections.
  • Visa requirements: Check if you need a visa to enter Morocco. Ensure your passport has at least six months of validity remaining.
  • Arrange transportation: Decide how you will reach Ouarzazate. You can travel by road from Marrakech, take a bus, or fly to Ouarzazate International Airport (OZZ).
  • Book accommodations: Research and book accommodations in Ouarzazate that fit your budget and preferences. Consider staying in a riad (traditional Moroccan house) or a hotel.
  • Create an itinerary: Plan your days in Ouarzazate, including visits to top attractions like Ait Ben Haddou, the Atlas Film Studios, and Taourirt Kasbah. Allow some flexibility for spontaneous exploration and relaxation.
  • Pack appropriately: Pack comfortable clothing, sunscreen, a hat, and sturdy shoes for outdoor activities. Also, consider packing a scarf or covering for visits to religious sites.
  • Stay safe: Familiarize yourself with local customs and traditions to ensure you respect the culture. Take necessary precautions such as staying hydrated, protecting yourself from the sun, and being cautious when exploring natural areas.
  • Currency and money: Exchange some currency to Moroccan Dirhams (MAD) before your trip or withdraw cash from ATMs in Ouarzazate. Credit cards are accepted in many establishments, but it’s wise to carry some cash for smaller vendors.
  • Learn basic phrases: Learn a few basic Arabic or French phrases to communicate with locals. This can enhance your travel experience and show respect for the local culture.
  • Travel insurance: Consider purchasing travel insurance to cover any unexpected events, such as medical emergencies or trip cancellations.
  • Immerse in local experiences: Engage with the local culture by trying Moroccan cuisine, visiting local markets, and interacting with the friendly locals.
  • Be flexible and open-minded: Embrace the unique experiences and surprises that Ouarzazate has to offer. Allow yourself to be open-minded and adaptable to make the most of your trip.

By following these steps, you’ll be well-prepared to have a memorable and enjoyable trip to Ouarzazate.

What is the best Food & Drink in Ouarzazate?

Ouarzazate offers a delightful culinary experience with a variety of Moroccan dishes. Try tagine, couscous, and kebabs at local restaurants. Don’t miss sipping on mint tea, a Moroccan favorite, while enjoying traditional pastries.

Here Is A List Of Traditional Foods and Drinks In Ouarzazate:

  • Tagine:

moroccan traditional tajine

Tagine is a traditional Moroccan dish cooked in a clay pot of the same name. It typically consists of slow-cooked meat (such as chicken, lamb, or beef) or vegetables, flavored with a combination of aromatic spices like cumin, turmeric, and cinnamon.

  • Couscous:

moroccan couscous

Couscous is a staple dish made from semolina wheat grains. It is often served with a variety of vegetables, meat (such as lamb or chicken), and a flavorful broth. It’s a popular and hearty meal in Ouarzazate.

  • Mint Tea:

tea - ait ben haddou

Mint tea, also known as “Moroccan whiskey,” is a ubiquitous drink in Ouarzazate. It’s a sweet and refreshing combination of green tea and fresh mint leaves. It is often served in small glasses and is a symbol of Moroccan hospitality.

  • Harira:
Bowl of Moroccan harira soup, lemon, dates and figs for iftar

Harira is a traditional Moroccan soup often enjoyed during Ramadan or special occasions. It’s a hearty soup made with a base of tomatoes, lentils, chickpeas, and a blend of aromatic spices. It’s a warming and flavorsome dish.

  • Pastilla:

Pastilla- moroccan traditional food

Pastilla is a savory pie that combines sweet and savory flavors. It typically consists of layers of thin pastry filled with shredded chicken, almonds, eggs, and a blend of spices like cinnamon and saffron. It’s a delicacy often served during festive occasions.

  • Moroccan Pancakes (Baghrir):

maroccan pancake 'beghrir'

Baghrir are spongy and porous pancakes commonly eaten for breakfast or as a snack. They are made from a batter of semolina, flour, yeast, and water. They are often served with honey or a drizzle of melted butter.

  • Zaalouk:

Zalouk-traditional meal -morocco

Zaalouk is a flavorful Moroccan salad made from cooked eggplant, tomatoes, garlic, and a blend of spices such as cumin, paprika, and coriander. It’s typically served as a side dish or as part of a mezze platter.

  • Rfissa:

Rfissa is a traditional Moroccan dish that is often prepared for special occasions and celebrations. It consists of shredded chicken, lentils, and fenugreek seeds cooked with aromatic spices and served over layers of thin crepes called “msemen.”

Things To Keep in Mind While Visiting Ouarzazate:

  1. Respect local customs and dress modestly, especially when visiting religious sites.
  2. Stay hydrated and protect yourself from the sun, as Ouarzazate can have high temperatures.
  3. Bargain when shopping in the local markets to get the best prices.
  4. Be cautious when exploring natural areas and follow any safety guidelines provided.
  5. Carry cash, as some establishments may not accept credit cards.
  6. Learn a few basic Arabic or French phrases, as they can be helpful for communication.
  7. Try traditional Moroccan cuisine, such as tagine and mint tea, for an authentic culinary experience.
  8. Be mindful of cultural differences and avoid sensitive topics in conversations.
  9. Hire a local guide to enhance your understanding of the city’s history and culture.
  10. Take the time to enjoy the stunning sunsets over the desert landscapes.

Frequently Asked

How do you spend a day in Ouarzazate?

A perfect day in Ouarzazate could include exploring Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou, visiting the Atlas Film Studios, and enjoying a traditional Moroccan meal at a local restaurant. Don’t forget to take in the breathtaking desert scenery and capture memorable moments.

How much time do you need in Ouarzazate?

To fully experience Ouarzazate and its surroundings, it’s recommended to spend at least 2-3 days. This allows you to explore the city, visit the nearby attractions, and even venture into the Sahara Desert.

Is Ouarzazate too touristy?

While Ouarzazate is a popular tourist destination, it retains an authentic Moroccan charm. It’s less crowded compared to Marrakech and offers a more relaxed atmosphere, making it a great place to immerse yourself in local culture.

What to buy in Ouarzazate?

Ouarzazate is known for its vibrant markets where you can purchase handmade crafts, carpets, ceramics, and spices. Souvenirs like Berber jewelry and intricate leather goods make for excellent mementos of your trip.

What you should wear in Ouarzazate?

Given Ouarzazate’s conservative culture, it’s advisable to dress modestly. Lightweight, breathable clothing is ideal for the desert climate, and women should consider covering their shoulders and knees when visiting religious sites.

How to be safe in Ouarzazate?

Ouarzazate is generally safe for tourists. However, it’s essential to take usual precautions, such as safeguarding your belongings and avoiding poorly lit areas at night. Respect local customs and be mindful of cultural differences to ensure a pleasant stay.

Ouarzazate – an Overall History

Ouarzazate is a city located in the southeastern part of Morocco, in the Draa-Tafilalet region. The city’s name is derived from the Berber phrase “war zazt,” which means “without noise.” Let’s explore the history of Ouarzazate in more detail:

Ancient Times:
Ouarzazate’s history can be traced back to ancient times when it served as an important trading post on the trans-Saharan trade routes. Caravans traveling between sub-Saharan Africa and the northern regions of Morocco would stop in Ouarzazate to rest, trade goods, and replenish their supplies. The city’s strategic location made it a significant crossroads for trade and cultural exchange.

Berber Influence:
The region around Ouarzazate has long been inhabited by Berber tribes. The Berbers are an indigenous ethnic group in North Africa with a rich history and cultural heritage. Their influence can be seen in the architecture and traditions of the city. The Berbers of Ouarzazate played a vital role in the city’s development, contributing to its unique cultural identity.

Kasbahs and Architecture:
Ouarzazate is renowned for its impressive kasbahs, which are fortified buildings made of clay or stone. These kasbahs served as residences for local rulers, providing protection and symbolizing their wealth and power. The most famous kasbah in Ouarzazate is the Kasbah of Taourirt, which was once the residence of the Glaoui family, a prominent Berber clan.

Film Industry:
In more recent history, Ouarzazate has gained international recognition as a major filming location. The city’s scenic landscapes, including the nearby Atlas Mountains and Sahara Desert, have attracted numerous filmmakers from around the world. Ouarzazate has served as the backdrop for many famous movies and television series, including “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Gladiator,” and “Game of Thrones.” The film industry has significantly contributed to the city’s economy and tourism sector.

Today, Ouarzazate is a popular tourist destination, attracting visitors with its rich history, stunning natural landscapes, and cultural heritage. Travelers come to explore the ancient kasbahs, venture into the nearby desert for camel treks and sand dune experiences, and visit the Atlas Film Studios, where they can see film sets and learn about the city’s connection to the movie industry.

Overall, Ouarzazate’s history is intertwined with trade, Berber culture, and its current reputation as a film production hub. The city’s historical significance and natural beauty make it a captivating destination for those interested in exploring Morocco’s diverse heritage.

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