The filming locations of Game of Thrones in Morocco are among the most beautiful sites in the country. We talk about Essaouira, the citadel of the Atlantic, with its legendary ramparts, and Ait-Ben-Haddou, the most beautiful fortified village in the Moroccan desert. Put on your dragon, grab your Valyrian steel sword, and let’s set off in the footsteps of Daenerys.
And if you don’t watch Game of Thrones, because you think there are too many heads waltzing around in this ruthless series, and you don’t know what I’m talking about: don’t go. These sublime places are certainly worthy of seducing you, with or without a cinematic reference.
Everyone knows it: the Game of Thrones team has good taste when it comes to choosing the filming locations whether in Morocco or any other place in the world. In Ireland, Croatia, Morocco, and Iceland, they have a knack for choosing exceptional sites worthy of bearing the history of Westeros. But some families are luckier than others. It is better to play a Targaryen than a Stark or, even worse, a member of the Night’s Watch. Think of those unfortunate people who have been freezing their loaves on Iceland’s glaciers for six seasons. The dragon family has a greater potential for sunbathing and swimming pool cocktails. They travel south, often to Morocco. It’s worth being fireproof.
I would have accepted the burning of the flames (and the psychopathic brother) to follow Daenerys on his travels. Because they visit the cream of the Moroccan south.
Essaouira, the citadel of the Atlantic Ocean:
For centuries, this mythical city took the name of Mogador. The Portuguese built its ramparts in the 16th century. These legendary ochre ramparts that the setting sun ignites, and on which the waves of the Atlantic Ocean and storms of birds break over. In the 18th century, the Sultan of Morocco, established in Marrakech, decreed that its capital should be defended by a fortified port. This was Essaouira. He commissioned a Frenchman to build a citadel in arms, on the model of Saint-Malo. It was then that the city we know today, with its large port open to the sea and its vast esplanade lined with towers, the Sqala, sprang up from the dunes and the waves. At the end of the French colonization, Mogador took the name of Essaouira, “the beloved”. In fact, it became the city of artists and painters, fascinated by its shades of orange and blue.
To the conquest of Astapor: the ramparts and the Sqala of Essaouira:
In Game of Thrones, Essaouira has a third name: Astapor. The “red city” is the one where Daenerys seizes the army of the Unsullied (Unsullied in VO). Essaouira is fabulously highlighted in the series. We discover it from the sea when the boats approach its ramparts. Also, we see the Unsullied in arms on the Sqala, posted on the towers, and Daenerys walking around the port.
I too would have liked to discover Essaouira by sea. I imagine that the vision of the ramparts surrounded by the waves is majestic. Otherwise, I went to do a balancing act on the moss-covered rocks, just to reproduce the magical vision. I almost stayed in Essaouira forever, friends with sea legs. The sticky and algae covered rocks slips.
Crossing the harbor is a certain olfactory test, as the fishermen offer the remains of fish to the clouds of seagulls. But don’t hesitate: win the sublime Sqala. Everything is wildly picturesque on the famous esplanade, the blue boats, the 18th-century Dutch cannons, the four watchtowers that frame it. Through the windows, the glance is called towards the purpurary islands, a few hundred meters from the shore. I know that the word “purpurary” evokes a somewhat raging disease, but rest assured. They are simply islands where people make purple. They are now a nature reserve that birds populate.
In the kasbah of Essaouira:
In Game of Thrones, we certainly don’t see Daenerys shopping in Essaouira, but don’t leave right away. Firstly, go deep into the heart of the kasbah, inside the ramparts. This city of craftsmen and artists has an incredible charm, and each street is a painting. Paintings to the glory of the beautiful Mogador, precious carpets, jewelry, and leather goods adorn every corner. Also, cats sleep on the stacked carpets as if they had been placed there only for them.
The colors of the streets, the height of the ramparts, everything seems to have been created for you to photograph.
Camels and horses on the beach of Essaouira:
When the sun goes down and the light turns red, join the large beach of Essaouira. There, herds of camels and horses await their riders. In the midst of the gallops, the surfers make their way to the waves in an unbridled surge of grace. I certainly award Essaouira the title of the most photogenic city in Morocco. I dream of going back there for a few days and do just that.
Ait-Ben-Haddou, the most beautiful ksar in the world?
Ait-Ben-Haddou is certainly among the most beautiful Game of Thrones filming locations in Morocco. “Ksar”, in the plural “ksour”: this Arabic word with its impetuous sound designates the fortified villages of the desert. They are built in the heart of the furnace, where the wells gush out. I discovered the ksour in Al-Ain, in the United Arab Emirates, and these dune castles have fascinated me ever since. But to this day, the one in Ait-Ben-Haddou is the most beautiful I know.
For centuries, this village perched on its hillside was a caravanserai. In fact, camel caravans crossing the desert on this vital trade route came to drink and rest. Ait-Ben-Haddou is the thousand and one nights. In addition, the ksar looks like a house of cards petrified in the sands. It is outstanding with its square houses stacked vertically, its elevation towards the top, and the river flowing at its feet.
The place is so beautiful and evocative that it could only attract directors. Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator, and many other films were shot here. The village is located about ten kilometers from Ouarzazate, the “Moroccan Hollywood”. In Game of Thrones, Ait-ben-Haddou is Yunkai, which Daenerys seizes with his Immaculate. Undoubtedly, this kind of landscape incites the conquest of the universe.
I wanted to stay for hours in Ait-Ben-Haddou, but the night was falling, and the road was long. Because to reach the village from Marrakech, you have to take the sublime road to Ouarzazate, which crosses the mountains of the High Atlas.