21 Apr Five movies filmed in Marrakech to watch during lockdown
By Mandy Sinclair
With flights grounded and airspace in Morocco closed due to COVID-19, we’re turning to the silver screen to transport us to the streets of Marrakech we know and love. Throughout the decades the colourful markets, centuries-old buildings and iconic hotels have provided the backdrop for Hollywood blockbusters and lesser-known films. Riad Living’s Mandy Sinclair cozied up and tuned in to some of her favourite movies filmed in Marrakech.
Hideous Kinky (also known as Marrakech Express)
A favourite and must-watch for anyone planning a visit to Marrakech and dreaming of wandering through the Marrakech medina (who isn’t?). Kate Winslet stars as Julia in Hideous Kinky alongside Saïd Taghmaoui in this tale based on Esther Freud’s autobiography. Set in the 1960s, Julia, played by Winslet, is a single mother tired of life in the UK and heads out to Marrakech with her two daughters in tow while exploring Sufism and eventually meets her lover Bilal, played by Taghmaoui.
The Marrakech scenes are set in the fondouks, or caravanserai, where the traders travelling along the famous trade routes and their transport once lodged when passing through Marrakech in the Mouassine district, not far from 72 Riad Living. Without revealing too much, the film speaks to subjects of feeling unhappy in one’s own life and includes scenes from the Sahara Desert. But it was the film that made me realize I needed to visit Morocco (and little did I know I would eventually move here).
The Man Who Knew Too Much
If you’ve wandered amongst the gardens, enjoyed a cocktail or two in the Italian Bar, or even stayed at La Mamounia, you may recognize the iconic hotel in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much starring James Stewart as Dr. Ben McKenna. Scenes of the Marrakech medina in the 1950s provide a historical glimpse in to the old city and also the set where the suspense unfolds after Dr. McKenna suspects something suspicious with Louis Bernard whom he and his family meet on the train from Casablanca to Marrakech. And who can resist breaking out into song as Doris Day who plays Jo McKenna starts singing Que Sera, Sera (What Will be, Will Be)?
Though the script claims the film is set in Abu Dhabi, anyone who’s passed through the Marrakech-Menara Airport will recognize the photogenic Terminal 1 entrance where the stars of the famous television show are greeted by their private drivers before being whisked away in their respective white Mercedes to the Taj Palace hotel in the Palmeraie area of Marrakech.
Guests at 72 Riad Living will have certainly wandered along Rue Mouassine (where the Secret Garden is located today) and the nearby streets, where the souk scenes of Sex and the City 2 were filmed – negotiating for the fabulous babouche (slippers) we know and love and where Carrie randomly bumped in to Aiden who happened to be in the red city on business. While the movie wasn’t as great as the first, it’s our top pick for transporting ourselves back in to the colourful and bustling souks we are all missing right now!
The Source (also known by its original title La Source des Femmes)
If you’re longing to return to the Atlas Mountains, Ourika Valley to be exact, you won’t want to miss The Source. The views of the landscapes and mountainside Amazigh villages comprised of adobe houses, scenes from daily life, along with watching these fierce women taking action make up for having to read the subtitles. The battle starts in the local hammam (leaving me longing for a good scrub and the benefits of the ritual) before tackling issues such as arranged marriages, access to water, extremism, and education.
Also known by its original French title La Source des Femmes, The Source debuted in the competition category of the Cannes Film Festival in 2011.
Queen of the Desert
Not to be confused with the musical Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, Queen of the Desert stars Nicole Kidman and James Franco. While most of the filming takes place in the Sahara Desert in Merzouga, Morocco, some scenes are set in Marrakech. Scenes of the famous synchronized opening of the doors at the La Mamounia Hotel and its tiled courtyards, as well as images of the bustling markets in the Lksour district of the medina transport us back out to the streets of Marrakech during this time of lockdown. Debuting at the Berlin International Film Festival in the Golden Bear category, Queen of the Desert stars Nicole Kidman as political attaché Gertrude Bell and follows her escape from her privileged life in London to Tehran, Iran for a tale of love, loss and adventure.
Cover image © purepeople