The Sheltering Sky: Desert Fort

I came across the movie, The Sheltering Sky, by accident while digging around the internet and searching for “movies filmed in North Africa”.  It stars Debra Winger and John Malkovich, its a chick-flick but a well-made chick-flick (which means I have to admit I liked parts of it) and the cinematography is excellent.  It’s set just after WWII and the Director Bernardo Bertolucci did a great job capturing that period.  Visually it is stunning.  Filmed on location the movie portrays the desert beautifully.  It appears part of the movie was filmed in the Taghit and Beni Abbes areas of Algeria which is close to the Great Western Sand Sea and the Zousfana River which appears often in scenes of this movie.  This is the area I mentioned in my previous post on El-Moungar and where the Foreign Legion operated in force and maintained several Beau Geste type forts along the border.  Late in the movie, Malkovich falls ill and his wife (Winger) struggles to find medical assistance from the unresponsive populace.  Eventually she gets him to a French military fort where a Foreign Legion doctor tries to help him.  As she moves around the fort and in other scenes we catch glimpses of the fort.  I cannot figure out where this scene was filmed at but I’m sure it was Beni Abbes because of the scenes showing the huge orange sand dunes and the large bend in the river.  It appears very authentic–I’m sure it was an actual French fort at one time–it does not have the look of a native ksar or bordj.  I just wish they filmed it from more angles.  I can’t seem to find such a structure like this using Google Earth in Beni Abbes.

But anyway, here are some of those screen captures of the fort.

The Sheltering Sky (the fort)

About Jack Wagner

Retired Army.
This entry was posted in Legion Forts, Movies. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Sheltering Sky: Desert Fort

  1. Jeremy Tuck says:

    You may well have long discovered, but I though I would contribute nonetheless: the fort was specifically constructed for the film and dismantled immediately thereafter.


    • Jack Wagner says:


      Thanks for the information on this. I do recall reading some accounts of how this movie was filmed and how the movie producers brought in a bunch of set engineers to recreate the fort. When I read this I assumed that it was simply to add details to an existing structure. Some of the scenes were filmed in Beni Abbes as I see this mentioned in several references. The river depicted in the movie is the Saoura River and as I cannot seem to find that structure on Google Earth I would be sure that my assumptions were wrong and that the structure was indeed a full movie set.


  2. Antonio Silva says:


    To see more details about the construction of the fort you may consider to buy the vintage DVD edition of this film which includes the making of.



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