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I’ve really gotten a hankering in my 30s to visit the Middle East, that is if it wasn’t already obvious from posts like this. I absolutely adore making food from this region of the world, although sometimes the next best thing (okay, third best thing in this case, after traveling there and then eating food from there) is watching a movie filmed there. So many of the articles on “films that will inspire wanderlust” feature the same film over and over (ahem, Lost in Translation and Under the Tuscan Sun). So (hopefully) these are some new movies you’re not familiar with but should still watch all the same, especially if a trip to the Middle East isn’t on the immediate horizon.
*I know that many of the films were not actually shot in the locations they’re set in, the pitfalls of 21st century movie making.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
You can’t go wrong when there’s a movie starring the always charming and delightful Emily Blunt and Ewan McGregor. The latter portrays a fisheries expert who is recruited by Blunt, a consultant, who is trying to actualize a sheikh’s dream of bringing the sport of fly fishing to the Yemen desert. Naturally, McGregor’s character is dubious, wanting nothing to do with such a harebrained scheme, thinking the sheikh is nothing more than a daft person with too much money to frivolously throw around but then he meets and spends time with the sheikh and helps in attempting the impossible. Although the film also takes place in London and Scotland, the scenes in Yemen (aka Morocco) are simply swoon worthy. Sleeping in a tent in the desert, bodies of water appearing like a mirage against the backdrop of beautiful golden sands-my kind of paradise I would love to see.
Walk on Water
This 2004 Israeli film is probably one of my all time favorite thrillers. It’s an honest to goodness enticing, edge of your seat film but without the over the top excessiveness that many Hollywood movies have. The film is about Eyal, an agent in Mossad, Israel’s security service, who specifically works as a hitman, taking out enemies of Israel. His latest assignment is to find an aging Nazi war criminal. He ends up posing as a tour guide to the Nazi criminal’s grown grandchildren; the granddaughter lives on a kibbutz in Israel and her brother comes to visit from Germany. And things get decidedly more complicated for Eyal from there. The film is very much a visual tourist brochure of Israel-whether it’s Jerusalem’s Old City, scenes of rural life from the kibbutz, or of course my favorite, the Dead Sea.
Okay, I know I know, I’ve already blogged about this wonderful movie before, but that was years ago and that post is truly buried deep in my blog’s archives. If there was ever a movie I loved from beginning to end, a movie I could recite the dialogue for (it helps that it’s only around 90 minutes), and a movie I could watch constantly, it’s this. Naturally it’s a plus that the movie is about a tourist (Juliette, played by the spectacular Patricia Clarkson) who comes to Cairo to meet her husband for a long awaited trip to this part of the world. Her husband, however, is delayed by his work for the United Nations (he supposedly works in the Gaza region). So he asks his former bodyguard Tareq (played by the wonderfully handsome Alexander Siddig, who has the most charming English accent) to look in on her and keep her company and, spending as much time together as they do, their connection grows strong from complete strangers to cherished friends. Although I’ve always wanted to visit Egypt, it’s this movie that fuels my wanderlust each and every time I watch it. It’s that beautifully made.
I’m cheating here since Hideous Kinky is set in Morocco which is considered the Maghreb, but we’ll file it under “Arabic speaking countries.” It stars Kate Winslet as a young English mother, accompanied by her two young daughters, who in the early 1970s moves to Morocco for adventure as she’s completely bored and disenchanted by life back in London. Naturally this doesn’t turn out to be such a good idea (well, that’s a complete and utter understatement), and yet there were adventures galore, so much so that one of the daughters wrote a memoir about her time in Morocco, which the film is based on. It was shot entirely in Morocco (mainly in Marrakech) and you will no doubt be wanderlusting after its gorgeous palaces, mosques, and bazaars, when you’re not totally aghast at Winslet’s character’s terrible parenting skills.
Theeb was a nominee for Best Foreign Language film for the 88th Academy Awards and was the first ever nominated from Jordan. It tells the story of Theeb, a young Bedouin boy who must survive in the vast Wadi Rum desert, set against the backdrop of the Middle Eastern theater of World War I. Theeb is not necessarily a tourist advertisement in the same sense that movies like Cairo Time and even Salmon Fishing in the Yemen are. It’s set 100 years ago and shows a way of life, the nomadic Bedouins, that no one in the Western world could even begin to fathom. But it’s a fascinating look at this remote culture paired with the intriguing elements of World War I since yes, the war truly did stretch that far east.