Game of Thrones in Morocco: Filming Locations, Tours & More!

    Hoping to follow in the footsteps of Game of Thrones in Morocco? This guide has you covered! From filming dates and history to locations and fun facts, this article will tell you everything you need to know about the link between Morocco and *cue theme song* Game of Thrones.
    While Northern Ireland is by far the best-known filming location for fantasy-dragon-boob phenomenon Game of Thrones, today I want to take you over to Northern Africa, specifically Morocco, where some of the series’ most epic scenes were actually filmed!
    That’s right my friends, “Christina’s GoT withdrawal” continues this week with an article and overall nerdgasm about the link between Game of Thrones and Morocco (one of my favourite travel destinations). I’ve previously rounded up all the Game of Thrones filming locations in Malta, so if you haven’t read that yet,  
    But anyways: back to Morocco. Season 3 was the “Morocco season” of Game of Thrones, because it was during this season that we saw Morocco act as the backdrop for many of Daenerys’ most epic slave-freeing exploits around Slaver’s Bay. Having been to many of these locations myself, I can easily see why they were chosen to portray the distant (and beautiful) lands of Essos.
    The best part is of course that many of these filming locations can be visited in real life, and look pretty much identical to how they appear in the series.
    So, if you’re interested in chasing the top Game of Thrones locations around Morocco, this guide is for you. Grab your goblet of wine and let’s go.

    A Brief History of Game of Thrones in Morocco
    I need to start with a quick history lesson because the link between Morocco and Game of Thrones actually goes further back than just season 3.
    So, let me ask: have you ever heard of Game of Thrones’ original lost pilot?
    If not, I’m about to rock your world.
    Long story short, before TV shows get picked up by networks, they need to create something called a “pilot”, which is basically a standalone 1st episode that is used to prove to TV networks that the show is worth producing. Well, did you know that Game of Thrones was almost never picked up for TV because the original pilot was so truly terrible, it was once described simply as a “MASSIVE PROBLEM”?
    Luckily for us, it was re-shot, re-written, picked up by HBO, and the rest is of course, history.
    What many people don’t know though is that many pieces of this “lost pilot” were filmed in Morocco!
    So that’s really where the story of Game of Thrones/Morocco begins.

    Unfortunately, when it came time to do re-shoots, all the pilot’s Morocco scenes were moved to Malta, so Morocco didn’t really feature in Game of Thrones until Season 3. At this point though, we got to see many Moroccan locations stand in for the distant cities in Essos around Slaver’s Bay, including Astapor and Yunkai. According to this casting call for extras, filming for the third season around Morocco took place in Fall 2012.
    But anyways, where exactly did Game of Thrones film in Morocco during these pilot episodes? Well, according to this entry from George R.R. Martin’s Livejournal (yes, seriously, he kept a Livejournal!!), parts of the Kingdom of Heaven set at Atlas Studios were redressed and repainted to become the mansion of Illyrio Mopatis, AKA where Daenerys and Khal Drogo meet for the first time. You can click here for some fun photos of George R.R Martin being a total tourist on set.
    And, thanks to GRRM’s detailed blogs, we also know that Morocco is where they filmed the wedding between Daenerys and Khal Drogo for the pilot. Again though, these scenes were scrapped since they recasted Daenerys, and so the new location of the wedding became Malta (specifically near the now-collapsed Azure Window) instead.

    Anyways, enough with the backstory… let’s do the actual locations!

    All of the Game of Thrones Filming Locations in Morocco
    From Astapor to Yunkai, if you’re planning your own little Game of Thrones tour around Morocco, here are the locations you need to add to your itinerary!

    The beautiful coastal city of Essaouira stood in for Astapor during Season 3.
    The most frequently-seen parts of Essaouira in Game of Thrones are definitely the different city walls and fortifications. This exact spot on Google Maps along the Skala de la Ville for example will bring you through the arch that Daenerys walks through when she first enters Astapor and sees the Unsullied (and Missandei!) for the first time. Other key Astapor scenes also film around these city walls and the little side streets nearby, and I’m sure you’ll get some instant Astapor vibes as soon as you start walking around.

    What other parts of Essaouira can be seen in Game of Thrones?

    Well, the little harbour pictured below can be seen in Season 3 Episode 1, when Daenerys and Jorah are walking through Astapor and Daenerys almost gets assassinated by that creepy little Warlock girl before they meet Barristan Selmy.
    PS: For some fun behind the scenes Game of Thrones action, you can click here to see some fun photos taken during filming by an Essaouira local.

    Atlas Studios in Ouarzazate

    credit : blieusong@Flickr

    The Atlas Studios are a massive sprawling collection of film sets scattered around the desert, located just a few kilometers away from Ouarzazate. A lot of notable productions have filmed here over the years, including the Mummy, Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven. Of course, many sets remain even after filming is wrapped, and are simply redressed and repurposed for new productions. Game of Thrones is one such production.
    The most iconic Game of Thrones scene to film here is the one in Season 3, Episode 4, when Daenerys unleashes the fury of her dragons for the first time and basically frees Astapor, slashing a bunch of slave owners in the process. Very, very badass.


    While not frequently recognized as a Game of Thrones filming location, according to this entry from the official HBO Making of Game of Thrones blog, just outside of Tazentoute is where they filmed the scenes from Season 3 when we see Daenerys in her swishy tent negotiating the terms of surrender for Yunkai.

    I wasn’t able to find a photo of Tazentoute, but here’s a beautiful sunset photo of another village in the Atlas Mountains!

    Ait Benhaddou

    Last but not least, we have the beautiful fortified clay village of Ait Benhaddou, which stands in for Yunkai in Season 3.
    There were quite a few instances when we saw the iconic streets and facades of Ait Benhaddou in Game of Thrones: namely during the Battle of Yunkai when Daario, Greyorm and Jorah take the city for Daenerys, some Yunkai camp scenes, and of course, how can we forget: Daenerys’ epic “MHYYYSA MHYYYSA” post-slavery crowd surfing moment at the very end of Season 3, Episode 10.

    NOTE: The gates that the slaves emerge from was constructed for the scene though and don’t exist in real life.

    That completes my summary of the three main Game of Thrones Morocco filming locations. Before visiting Morocco I had no idea that so much of the show was filmed in the country. Therefore as a fan, it was brilliant to learn that central Morocco essentially doubles as Slavers Bay.
    Further, each location mentioned is worth a visit whether you’re a fan of Game of Thrones or not! But being able to identify scenes from the show does make a visit that little bit more exciting.
    If you have limited time and are therefore only able to visit one Game of Thrones Morocco location, I’d suggest Essaouira as its simply charming, and there’s much to do in the town, making it the perfect day trip. In addition, its the location where the most scenes in Morocco were filmed!

    Source : EarthsMagicalPlaces