Image 1 of 9: Tunisia: The English Patient’s Medina was set in Sfax on the Tunisian coast. Go into Tunisia’s Sahara desert to see the abandoned settlement of Star Wars’ Tatooine. Pay homage to the birthplace of Anakin Skywalker. And if a man in a dark suit walks up to you and says that he is your father, be afraid. Be very, very afraid.
Image 1 of 9: Egypt: Visit the pyramids like Mia Farrow did in the River of the Nile. But don’t climb up the pyramids like Ms. Farrow - it’s illegal and dangerous. The Grand Nile Hotel in the movie is the Sofitel in Aswan. You might want to wait a little before your visit - Mia Farrow didn't have to contend with the Arab Spring.
Image 1 of 9: Jordan: Want to find the Holy Grail? Forget Jay Z and visit the Treasury at Petra. Word of warning - Indiana Jones has already taken the Grail, so you might find it missing. If you ever get an urge to help liberate a country (and publish an inflated account of your contributions) go to Wadi Rum. Peter O’Toole did just that in Lawrence of Arabia.
Image 1 of 9: Saudi Arabia: One of the most moving scenes in Malcolm X is when he visits Mecca and submits to Allah. You have to be a Muslim to visit the sites however - in fact the Saudi scenes for the movie were filmed by a second all-Islamic crew, no expenses spared for keeping it 'kosher'.
Image 1 of 9: Israel: Visit the ruins of Avdat to reminisce about the 1973 British musical Jesus Christ Superstar - the movie that managed to offend and delight segments of both Christians and Jews. In 2000, the video version of the movie was shot entirely indoors - this location is not as exciting as the original. Now get your jazz hands on!
Image 1 of 9: Iran: Ironically, the 1974 film Arabian Nights was filmed in a Persian setting, at odds with Arab-pride. The breathtakingly beautiful Isfahan houses Naghsh-e Jahan Square and other ancient Islamic monuments. U.S. travelers beware - upon your return, you might have to give Iran's immigration officials a thousand and one stories for your visit.
Image 1 of 9: Iraq: Remember the Exorcist? OK, calm down, no need to feel compelled. The opening scene where Father Merrin combats the demon Pazuzu is shot among the ancient ruins of Hatra (Al-Hadr). Incidentally, the rubble of Hatra are Iraq’s only UNESCO World Heritage site, and have survived the ravages of both time and looting.
Image 1 of 9: Turkey: James Bond has come to Turkey thrice. From Russia With Love played out at Istanbul’s Bridge of Sighs, the Grand Bazaar and the Basilica Cistern. While in Istanbul, check out the Kiz Kulesi tower from the World is Not Enough. Relive the opening chase of Skyfall in Eminonu Square. Your senses will be both shaken and stirred.
Image 1 of 9: Morocco: Visit the notorious Café de Paris, Place de France at Avenue Pasteur in Tangiers to relive a memorable scene from the Bourne Ultimatum. Guests at the luxurious Mamounia Hotel in Marrakech might recall The Man Who Knew Too Much. You’ll find Hollywood everywhere in Morocco - you can’t throw a stone without hitting a movie location.
Lights. Camera. Falafel.
You might not have the budget to travel to the places where Hollywood’s greatest movie stars vacation. But you certainly have the budget to schlep it to the places where they work. And be it Star Wars, The Bourne Ultimatum or The English Patient, some of Hollywood’s best talent has come to the Middle East to make their movies. Most recently, U.S. comedian Jon Stewart came to Amman to direct his first film Rosewater. The makers of Sex and the City 2 initially set out their stalls on Abu Dhabi for shooting a sexy segment- but it was not to be. Step in Morocco --the New Zealand of the Middle East for stunning and windswept backdrops.
The Middle East offers a dizzying variety of locales and sceneries to suit every palate and every taste - from parched deserts to lush green meadows as well as spectacular Mediterranean coastlines to snow capped mountains. It’s all happening in the Middle East.
Contrary to what some people think, not all movies shot in the Middle East are about terrorism. In fact, most aren’t.
So before you call your travel agent, or log on to that ticketing website, take a minute to view this slide show of Arabian settings. You’ll plumb the depths of a region full of grand surprises in scenery and scapes. The pristine and welcoming places that you saw on the silver screen as a child, on a special date, or on a well earned holiday weekend are waiting for you.
So come to the Middle East for your next vacation. Be a superhero, fall in love all over again, or simply discover whether you have what it takes to become a Jedi Knight. Tune in to our panel of Hollywood goes to Arabia, and remember, there's more to it than Lawrence of Arabia...