Morocco – Night in Casablanca

Lights, Camera, Action

If we’re being honest, for some people, the only exposure they have to Morocco is through the classic film Casablanca. Ironically, not a single scene of the movie was filmed on location in the city for which it’s named. Morocco, however, has become a popular destination for some of the world’s greatest directors and stars. These popular productions share Morocco as a location, despite rarely being set in the African country:

Game of Thrones

The immensely popular HBO TV series has filmed scenes around the world and that includes Morocco (Ait Benhaddou and Essaouira), which has provided the setting for the cities of Yunkai, Astapor, and Essos. This is where Daenerys Targaryen travels in season three to build her army. Morocco was also used in the pilot episode of the series and can perhaps take a little credit in the massive success of the show… but probably not the copious amount of sex, nudity, murder, and other misdeeds.

game-of-thrones-naked

Lawrence of Arabia

This cinematic gem was originally pegged to be filmed entirely in Jordan, but added other locales during production. Ouarzazate, Morocco doubled for the Syrian town of Tafas (site of the Tafas massacre), with Moroccan armed forces subbing in for the Turkish army. Apparently filming was problematic because of the unaccommodating soldiers. In the end, all Arab countries (except for Egypt) banned the movie due to its portrayal of Arabian culture.

The Mummy & The Mummy Returns

While four days was about all the Sip Advisor needed in Marrakesh, the first Mummy production stayed for 17 weeks. Kidnapping insurance was taken out on each of the movie’s stars, who weren’t told of this until shooting had wrapped. The sequel only used the Erg Chebbi Dunes as its “Egyptian” desert. For some reason, Morocco wasn’t used for The Scorpion King prequel to the franchise, nor the third film in the trilogy Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, although that story was based out of China.

Inception

The Christopher Nolan, Leonardo DiCaprio thriller featured a couple scenes filmed in Morocco, most notably the exciting chase scene set in the narrow alleys of the Tangier, Morocco medina. It also served as the place where Dominick Cobb adds con artist Eames and chemist Yusef to his team, prior to the dash. Finally, it is the setting for the riot images, as Cobb infiltrates Japanese businessman Saito’s mind at the start of the film.

inception-explained

The Man Who Knew Too Much

Another Alfred Hitchcock-Jimmy Stewart collaboration which sees an innocent family become embroiled in an international assassination plot, with their son even being kidnapped. The opening scenes of the film, including the murder of a French intelligence operative, are all filmed in Marrakesh, where Stewart and family are vacationing. This movie (murder, kidnapping, and assassination plots, oh my) provided the basis of what I expected from Morocco!

Gladiator

While this Ridley Scott, Russell Crowe epic is set in the Roman Empire, a large chunk of the movie was actually filmed in Ouarzazate, Morocco (which Mrs. Sip and I visited). This Berber city provided the location for Maximus’ gladiator training, early slave life, and scenes traversing the desert. A mud brick stadium for the battle sequences was built using local techniques. I guess that’s all fair enough, given the Roman Empire did extend into Africa.

gladiator-like-life

Othello

One of the first foreign productions to capitalize on Morocco as a filming destination, this Orson Welles adaptation of William Shakespeare’s classic tragedy ran into a number of logistical issues, resulting in using some unique filming techniques. This included a battle sequence was first filmed in Morocco, but finished while on location in Rome a few months later. When the film won the Palme d’or at the 1952 Cannes Film Festival, it was recognized as a Moroccan creation.

Prince of Persia

While perhaps not on the same level as the other films listed in this article, I have to mention this one, because Mrs. Sip and I were inside one of the Berber homes used during a battle scene of the movie. In fact, the production spent eight weeks in Morocco, which isn’t a huge surprise given the movie largely takes place in the desert. Hell, the movie’s subtitle is The Sands of Time… Morocco was an obvious choice for filming.

Morocco: Night in Casablanca

Night in Casablanca Cocktail

  • 2 oz Mahia
  • 1 oz Dry Vermouth
  • 0.25 oz Bourbon
  • Dash of Peychauds Bitters
  • 1 Sugar Cube
  • Garnish with a Lemon Wheel

Of course, not every movie made in Morocco is a classic… after all, Sex and the City 2 filmed there. Given it was hard for our crew to find cocktails around the country, I wonder how easily the girls were able to locate their favoured Cosmopolitans!?

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (2.5 Sips out of 5):
This cocktail was pretty strong, but the ingredients come together well. The Sugar Cube really helps even out the drink. Mahia is an interesting spirit and I’m not quite sure how I feel about it yet. I’ll have to give it another shot and see how it works out with different bed fellows…

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April 26 – Golden Dragon

Dragon’s Den

While preparing for our Around the World stop in China, I had originally intended to do an article on dragons, which are an integral part of Chinese culture, mythology, and folklore. China is not alone, however, with having dragons as part of their legends, so I switched this post over to a Super Saturday Shot Day article and now we can have some real fun. Here are the top five dragons in media:

#5: Maleficent – Sleeping Beauty

How cool would it be to have the power to turn into a dragon? For the wicked fairy Maleficent, this ability comes out as she tries to keep Prince Phillip from rescuing Princess Aurora. Even the name Maleficent is finely-crafted as it translates into “doing evil or harm”. The soon-to-be-released live action film Maleficent should be an interesting twist on the Sleeping Beauty fable, as we gain some perspective into the antagonist and get her point of view. Sadly, Angelina Jolie plays the titular (literally!?) role, but I’ll have to make peace with that.

Maleficent Dragon

#4: Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat

One of the most athletically-gifted wrestlers of all-time, Ricky Steamboat is a former NWA World Champion (a pretty big deal for you non-grappling fans) and his series of matches with the incomparable Ric Flair are considered legendary. Nicknamed ‘The Dragon’, while he was with the WWE during their cartoon gimmick era of the early 90’s, Steamboat even came to the ring breathing fire high into the air and wearing an outfit with fake scales. Sadly, his career was cut short due to a serious back injury in 1994, depriving fans of many more classic confrontations.

#3: Drogon, Viserion, and Rhaegal – Game of Thrones

While these dragons have already played an important role in the Game of Thrones saga, you just know that they will eventually become a focal point of the book and its TV series sibling. The dragons made Daenerys Targaryen a serious contender in the realm and helped her shed the misconceptions that she didn’t belong on the throne. Drogon, Viserion, and Rhaegal (I always love how fantasy novels come up with names) will continue to grow and intimidate. I doubt, however that all three make it through the series unscathed and there is likely some tragedy ahead for the ‘Mother of Dragons’.

Mother of Dragons

#2: Mushu – Mulan

Returning to the Disney vault, we get Mushu, an under-sized serpent and protector of Mulan as she joins the fight against the Hun army. While Mushu is a decent sidekick to Mulan, my favourite appearance of the dragon is at the Disney Animation Studio attraction at Disney Parks, where he co-hosts the Drawn to Animation demonstration. I find it ironic that Eddie Murphy played this little firecracker of a dragon, then fell in love with a dragon as Donkey in Shrek. The guy must have a thing for the mythical beasts!

#1: Toothless – How to Train Your Dragon

It’s unbelievable how much Toothless reminds me of one of Ma and Pa Sip’s cats. Yes, an animated dragon reminds me of a living cat… I’m special like that! Anyway, young Viking Hiccup finds Toothless one day and over time, the two become friends and partners as Hiccup trains Toothless to work with him, while also coming to the realization that the stories he’s grown up on about dragons being evil may not be true for every creature of the clan. Together, they bring a stop to the constant war between Vikings and dragons. I’m really looking forward to this year’s sequel to the 2010 hit and there’s even a planned third film due in 2016.

Super Saturday Shot Day: Golden Dragon

Golden Dragon Shot

While I’m not a huge fan of dragons, I have a deep respect for them. I wish I could sleep all day underneath a castle and be feared simply by reputation. I have to toss out a couple honourable mentions to Trogdor the Burninator from Strong Bad E-mails (Homestar Runner) and Eric Cartman’s stuffed animal dragon Rumpertumskin on South Park. Both characters are very minor players, but have given me great pleasure in the past.

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (4.5 Sips out of 5):
I subbed in Torched Cherry Rum for Dragon Berry Rum because it’s what I had on hand and also thought it worked with the theme of dragons and fire. This shot was really good, particularly the mixing of the Goldschlager and Sour Apple Mix. The Torched Cherry Rum was indeed a good choice, adding a different note to an apple pie type flavour.