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LUXURY ON LOCATION: Sex and the City 2
The Movie : Sex and the City 2 (2010)
The Location: New York City and Morocco (although the film pretends it is Abu Dhabi)

Carrie Bradshaw deserts the New York subway and takes the Marrakech Express when the new Sex and the City 2 movie hits our screens in May. Well, actually, according to movie-fiction she takes the Abu Dhabi Express which doesn't have the same ring about it at all. Nevertheless the backdrop is actually Morrocco. Abu Dhabi may gain some tourists from the movie-fiction but we predict that it is  Morocco,  already a firm Euro-favourite,  which will definitely be on the luxe lover's hot list for the rest of 2010. We don't just base this prediction on the pulling power of a TV series-turned-movie-franchise, we wouldn't be so shallow - oh, no, no. There is also the transformation of the divine hotel La Mamounia, completed last year, and a handbag full of new designer riads to consider.

Still luxie images of Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), Samantha Jones (Kim Cattrall), Charlotte York-Goldenblatt (Kristin Davis) and Miranda Hobbs (Cynthia Nixon) strutting over the shimmering sands in impossibly floaty designer dune-wear (who needs a catwalk anyway) can't hurt either. Certainly the trailers for Sex and the City 2 were at pains to highlight its travelogue appeal. "Be Carried away - far away" purred the narrator as scenes of golden sand dunes and luxury hotel pools filled the screen.

sex and the city 2
sex and the city 2
the girls in the desert
mandarin oriental
marrakesh from la mamounia
carrie in morocco
marrakesh club

Manhattan is still a location in the movie - how could there be a Sex and the City without that City? Nevertheless, for eight weeks or so the cast de-camped to North Africa to film among the medina and minarets. Sarah Jessica Parker said of the location filming: 'This is probably the most time the characters have ever spent together. Simultaneously, it was the first time that the four actors left the country, lived together, worked together for almost eight weeks solid... It is the most fun and the hardest we've ever worked together.'
The sequel is set two years after the last movie ended and although the bulk of the Middle Eastern section of the movie is supposedly set in Abu Dhabi, as soon as the fab four step off the plane you know exactly where they are.  Now as it happens, The Luxury Travel Bible knows that Abu Dhabi International Airport is pretty flamboyant in its design. When we jetted through recently, we looked up at a vaulted ceiling covered in jewel-blue mosaics which makes it look like an extravagant Arabic palace. Nevertheless as far as movie locations go there is no mistaking the funky eco-tech design of Menara International Airport Marrakech where the girls and their designer luggage were actually filmed. Since building completed in 2008, the airport has graced the pages of many an architectural journal.  The Luxury Travel Bible wouldn't often suggest hanging around in airports - straight to the first class lounge is usually our motto - but this one is worth a look. Giant diamond-shaped windows and patterns in the concrete echo traditional Arabic and Moroccan motifs and even the solar panels in the roof look like a clever mosaic. Look up and most wouldn't even register they were serving a purpose other than decoration. As a designer backdrop to the jet-set Jezebels' arrival it is perfect.
The cast clearly share The Luxury Travel Bible's taste in hotels too. Apparently Sarah Jessica Parker checked into the newly renovated La  Mamounia,  Kristin Davis and Kim Cattrall stayed at Amanjena (another favourite of ours) and Cynthia Nixon chose the Es Saadi. All tasteful choices.  La Mamounia hotel, with a sweeping limo-wide drive and gracious garden, was closed for three years for an impressive makeover. It opened its door again in late 2009. Out went all the Art Deco (auctioned off in a grand sale to collectors) in came Moroccan/Andalucian style, a return to its Arabian roots under the direction of French designer extraordinaire Jacques Garcia.
Amanjena in the exclusive Palmeraie district is another offering from the Aman Resorts stable. Designed by the American architect Ed Tuttle it is a subtle take on ornate Moorish-style. All the normal luxuries Aman aficionados have come to expect from the brand are here, including 18 pavilions with discreet private courtyards with Arab-style fountains. For a greater level of luxe The Luxury Travel Bible suggests one of the four 2-storey maisons with private pools, fireplace and butler service.
"Be Carried away - far away" purred the narrator as scenes of GOLDEN sand dunes and LUXURY hotel pools filled the screen.
Rumour has it some filming also went on at on at the soon-to-open Mandarin Oriental Jnan Rahma, a new 161-room luxury resort also situated in the exclusive Palmeraie district beneath the Atlas Mountains. Guests stay in ornately decorated main palace or a number of 16 to 20-room private riads, perfect for groups of friends or families. The hotel, scheduled to open in the second half of 2011, is worth a look. The new General Manager Patrick-Denis Finet was GM of the Mandarin Oriental Riviera Maya when it opened a couple of years back so he is used to luxury hotel launches.
Filming took place around the famous Djemaa el Fna square and within the pink walls of the medina and of Marrakech as a backdrop. Then the cast and crew headed towards Erfoud, Merzouga and some of the most spectacular dunes of the Sahara. Merzouga is on the edge of Erg Chebbi, a 50km long and 5km wide set of sand dunes that reach up to 350m.
Scenes were shot of the friends feasting in a luxury Bedouin tent and walking on the dunes. They also got to ride camels. Speaking to the BBC Kim Cattrall said: "Sarah Jessica Parker and I were on the camel literally for 13 hours and when I got off I was bow legged in a way that you cannot even imagine. Oh God it hurt!"
"The camels were beautifully trained," explained Sarah Jessica Parker at a recent press conference. "Cynthia and Kristin were on [the other] camel and they had the most grumpy, ornery camel. Ours was so sweet, but then out of nowhere our camel would sit. You have to understand, it's not like a bike and the bike fell over. It's a camel, and the camel would just sit. And when they sit, it's a little like an earthquake".
For those who want to emulate the experience of the SATC crew there are a number of luxury desert hotels  worldwide where you can make like Laurence of Arabia in style.  Many of Morocco's Kasbahs-turned-luxury hotels in this area will also organise the obligatory sunset camel ride - if you are sure you really want to do it.
Hilary Doling 19/4/10
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