Where Does 'Aladdin' Take Place? Find Out if Agrabah is Real

Disney's live-action Aladdin opened Friday, bringing the beloved animated classic into the real world. But while genies, flying carpets and talking parrots are clearly in the realm of fantasy, did director Guy Ritchie base his vision of Agrabah, the film's fictional setting, on a real place?

More than one, actually. Production designer Gemma Jackson Gemma Jackson (King Arthur, HBO's Game of Thrones) took inspiration from more than a dozen locales to give the new Aladdin a feel that was both fantastical and grounded in reality.

The principal shooting took place at Longcross Studios in Surrey, England, and in the Wadi Rum Desert in Jordan. Jackson decided Agrabah would be a port city where "everything comes and goes on ships, which gives Agrabah quite a good connection to the rest of the world," she told Entertainment Weekly.

It also helps inform Princess Jasmine's expanded role and her ambition to be Sultan. "That's why Jasmine is quite worldly and she has got a lot of information and when you see the Sultan in his place, he has quite a big collection of stuff from around the world, because they traded with other countries."

In an interview with IndieWire, she compared her vision of Agrabah to Namibia in southwest Africa, "where the desert literally goes down to the sea and it's astonishingly beautiful."

The bustling market in "One Jump," which introduces us to the fabled city, was inspired by the souks of Marrakech. "[They have these wonderful, secretive alleyways for running around," Jackson said, "so we created quite long runs for the actors so the cameras could chase them through."

disney palace
Disney

The Sultan's palace, meanwhile channels inspirations from across Asia—the palace itself was inspired by a Burmese monastery, while the decor was influenced by Persia, India, Turkey, and even Byzantium.

Interestingly, the original Aladdin folk tale was vague on its setting, as well: In Richard Burton's popular 1885 English translation, Aladdin lives in China. (Victorian illustrations depicted the characters as Chinese.) Others have suggested the setting was intended to be Turkestan in Central Asia.

Disney's 1992 animated version was originally going to be set in Baghdad, until the advent of the Gulf War made the studio to change it. "I took letters and did a jumbled anagram and came up with Agrabah," co-director John Musker told E! News.

The decision to take from numerous cultures for the new live-action version sidesteps political landmines and enables a wider audience to feel connected to the film.

"It very much reflects a mixing or association of different cultures in a broad region that you can consider the Middle East-slash-South Asia, and even to China actually by extension, so really the Silk Road," Julie Ann Crommett, Disney's Vice President of Multicultural Engagement, told EW in 2018. "There was a real intention for Agrabah to become the center of the Silk Road and reflect the diversity and movement of what we can loosely construe that time period to have been, which was a golden age as well for the region."

Where Does 'Aladdin' Take Place? Find Out if Agrabah is Real | Culture
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