10 Iconic Movie Locations in the Arab World
From Tunisia to Jordan – these are the spots Hollywood loves
A question many film buffs ask after watching a movie is “Where did they film that?”, especially when the cinematography is top-notch and the sweeping other-worldly landscapes would make for a killer Instagram post.
Well fortunately it turns out that when it comes to Hollywood’s most epic blockbusters, the region serves as the backdrop to some of their most beautiful scenes.
From Tunisia to Jordan, we round up the movie locations within the region you can actually visit.
Hotel Sidi Driss, Matmata, Tunisia
Nicknamed the Star Wars Hotel, this Tunisian gem was depicted as Luke Skywalker’s Tatooine home in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones as well as Episode IV: A New Hope. Aside from the location’s mark on movie history, the hotel carries a history of its own having once been home to Berber nomads that settled there centuries ago.
Ksar Ouled Soltane, Tataouine, Tunisia
Located in the city that inspired Star Wars’ desert planet, Tatooine, Ksar Ouled Soltane is a must-see movie location. Built by Berbers centuries ago, the ksar was once used to store grains, and after its feature in Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace, the historical landmark is now a popular tourist site.
Ribat of Monastir, Monastir, Tunisia
The Ribat of Monastir has stood the test of time as the oldest structure built by Arab conquerors of North Africa. The fortress was the backdrop for the majority of the 1979 cult favourite, Monty Python’s The Life of Brian. To this day, fans from all over the world pay homage by visiting the city of Monastir and walk through the ‘Holy Land’.
‘The Door of the Desert’, Ouarzazte, Morocco
No visit to Morocco is complete without a visit to Ouarzazte, the southern Berber city home to one of the largest movie studios in the world like the Atlas Film Studio. Hundreds of films were filmed here, among them Hollywood classics like Laurence of Arabia, The Mummy, Gladiator, and even an episode of Game of Thrones. If you’re looking to get behind the scenes and walk where many stars have in the past, this is definitely the place to go.
In 2013, the city was depicted as the home of Eve, the artistic, century-old vampire played by Tilda Swinton in what has been described as one of Jim Jarmusch’s best films (especially in terms of cinematography) Only Lovers Left Alive. And while talent might have something to do with that, the charm of Tangier also deserves some credit.
La Mamounia Hotel, Marrakesh, Morocco
The iconic Marrakesh hotel (whose famous indoor pool we’ve seen flooding our Instagram feeds for years) has long-been known for its classic charm and traditional twist on luxury. So it’s no surprise that it would attract the sights of filmmakers, most notably Alfred Hitchcock. The location was home to Ben and Jo, the main characters in the esteemed director’s 1956 classic, The Man Who Knew Too Much.
Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi, UAE
The highly anticipated 2015 release of Fast and Furious 7 was met with positive reviews. The crew and their fast cars found their home in the Middle Eastern city of Abu Dhabi, particularly the lavish Emirates Palace, where you can enjoy views of the Arabian Gulf.
Etihad Towers, Abu Dhabi, UAE
Perhaps Abu Dhabi’s most well-known buildings, the five Etihad Towers were featured on the silver screen as the set of the crucial, action-packed car jump scene in the blockbuster hit Fast Furious 7.
Jumeirah Lake Towers, Dubai, UAE
When it came to producing sci-fi blockbuster, Star Trek Beyond, the ultra-futuristic city of Dubai was naturally chosen as the setting for YorkTown, a Federation Starbase. When asked about the decision to film in the emirates, producer Jefferey Chernov went on to describe it as “the world of tomorrow”.
Mecca, Saudi Arabia
While Spike Lee’s 1992 film Malcom X was largely filmed in the US, some scenes were actually filmed in Saudi Arabia. In tribute to the authenticity of the activist, a completely separate all-Muslim crew was allocated to film the scenes in Mecca since Saudi Arabia does not grant non-Muslims visas to enter the holy land.
Al Khazneh, Petra, Jordan
Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade was filmed in locations all over the world, and not surprisingly, the Jordanian rock city of Petra was among them, particularly the famous Treasury Building in Al Khazneh. The archaeological site was home to the ‘Knight of The Grail’, the biblical artefact at the centre of the Indiana Jones storyline.
Old Cataract Hotel, Aswan, Egypt
The 1978 Agatha Christie adaptation Death on The Nile took place in Egypt. The murder mystery follows the death of wealthy heiress Linnet Ridgeway on a luxury cruise ship and famed Belgian detective Hercule Poirot’s attempt to find the culprit. The Old Cataract Hotel is dubbed ‘The Grand Nile’, and it is where passengers first meet following the incident.
Temple of Karnak, Luxor, Egypt
The Egyptian city of Luxor, once capital to the pharaohs, has long been a favourite site for filming. The Temple of Karnak is made up of decayed temples and other structures, and is said to be the oldest religious structure ever constructed. The ancient site was the location for the filming of 1977 James Bond hit, The Spy Who Loved Me, Transformers: Revenge of the fallen, as well as Death on The Nile.