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Did you know these Hollywood Movies were Shot in Arab Countries?

posted on: Oct 16, 2019

Did you know these Hollywood Movies were Shot in Arab Countries?

By: Pamela Dimitrova/ Arab America Contributing Writer

Despite the difficult relationship between the Arab world and the Western cinema, the Arab world has long been a preferred location for many Hollywood productions due to its attractive and unique nature, beautiful landscapes, and breath-taking cities. Here are few of the most famous Hollywood Arab movies shot in Arab countries:

The Martian (2015)

Location: Jordan

From legendary director Ridley Scott (Alien, Prometheus) comes a gripping tale of human strength and the will to survive. During a mission to Mars, American astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is presumed dead and left behind. But Watney is still alive. Against all odds, he must find a way to contact Earth in the hope that scientists can devise a rescue plan to bring him home.

The 2015 blockbuster was almost entirely filmed in Jordan’s magnificent Wadi Rum. It made $630.2 million at the box office. The Martian is based on a novel by Andy Weir and directed by Ridley Scott. It received several accolades, including the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, and seven Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture.

Alexander (2004)

Location: Morocco

Alexander is an epic historical drama film based on the life of the Macedonian Greek general and king Alexander the Great. It was directed by Oliver Stone and starred Colin Farrell. The film’s original screenplay derived in part from the book Alexander the Great, published in 1973 by the University of Oxford historian Robin Lane Fox.

Areas around Essaouira provided a picturesque backdrop for the Macedonian mountains, small basins, agricultural lands, and rivers. The scene in the Macedonian horse market where young Alexander (Connor Paolo) surprises everyone by taming and subduing Bucephalus, was shot near Essaouira. The great Battle of Gaugamela where Alexander (Colin Farrell) defeats the Persian Emperor Darius III was filmed in a desert outside Marrakech. The majestic gates through which Alexander the Great makes his triumphant entry into Babylon were built in Marrakech.

The Mummy (1999)

Location: Morocco

At an archaeological dig in the ancient city of Hamunaptra, an American serving in the French Foreign Legion (Brendan Fraser) accidentally awakens a mummy who begins to wreak havoc as he searches for the reincarnation of his long-lost love.

While the movie is set in Egypt but filmed mostly in Morocco. In the southeastern Moroccan desert, an entire set was built for the fictional Egyptian city, Hamunaptra. The set for this fictional city was constructed in a dormant volcanic crater close to the real-life oasis town, Erfoud. Fast-forward, two years later, “The Mummy Returns” to Morocco again as the sequel to Stephen Sommers’s 1999 blockbuster film. Not far from Erfoud, the Erg Chebbi desert dunes are used as a double for the Egyptian desert.

Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015)

Location: UAE

Three decades after the Empire’s defeat, a new threat arises in the militant First Order. Defected stormtrooper Finn (John Boyega) and the scavenger Rey (Daisy Ridley) are caught up in the Resistance’s search for the missing Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill).

The first third of the Force Awakens takes place on the sandy planet of Jakku, making Abu Dhabi the perfect location for shooting such scenes. For seeking to make a more practical Star Wars, director J.J. Abrams commissioned sets to be built around the desert, including starships and a marketplace filled with all sorts of alien tech. Explosives were also used to create a realistic blast crater. It was a process that echoes that of the first Star Wars from 1977 that built sets in Chott el Djerid and Tozeur.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

Location: Egypt

Two years after saving the world with the Autobots, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is away at college when an ancient Decepticon named “The Fallen” returns to Earth on a mission of vengeance. With the Allspark destroyed, the Autobots lose all hope of returning to their home planet of Cybertron and begin working with an elite military known as NEST to hunt down any remaining Decepticons. 
Now, as Sam and Mikaela (Megan Fox) unearth a secret about the Transformers that alters the entire course of human history, the Decepticon known as The Fallen prepares to return — and reclaim the plant once and for all.

The second entry of the series follows the heroes’ travel to Egypt. The movie featured plenty of footage of iconic ancient monuments, many of which became reduced to rubble in the movie’s loud action sequences of Autobots versus Decepticons. Thankfully, these destructive scenes were achieved wither through computer graphics or special set build outside the country.

The English Patient (1996)

Location: Tunisia

At the close of WWII, a young nurse (Juliette Binoche ) tends to a badly-burned plane crash victim (Ralph Fiennes ). His past is shown in flashbacks, revealing an involvement in a fateful love affair.

The drama, war film was released in 1996. Although the sensational romance was set in Egypt, Libya, and Italy, Tunisia provided the perfect location to portray Cairo during WWII. Starring Ralph Fiennes, Juliette Bianche, and Willem Dafoe, The English Patient won 9 Academy Award including Best Picture and Best Original Score by Lebanese-French composer Gabriel Yared.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (2011)

Location: UAE

Agent Ethan Hunt and his elite team go underground after a bombing implicates the IMF as terrorists. While trying to clear their name, the team uncovers a plot to start a nuclear war. Now to save the world, they must use every high-tech trick in the book.

Famous for the nail-biting stunt where Tom Cruise’s character, Ethan Hunt, hangs off the Burj Khalifa, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, the fourth installment in the franchise, is the biggest-budget blockbuster ever to be filmed in Dubai. The Burj stunt alone took 23 days and required some 400 crew members on hand to ensure that bankable star Cruise, who insisted on doing the stunt himself, was kept safe.


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