By Ethan Alter
Updated May 11, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT

Not since the days of Bogie and Bergman has this coastal African country seen so much Hollywood traffic: The Mummy Returns, which opened last week; Heath Ledger’s upcoming war adventure The Four Feathers; and the Robert Redford action thriller Spy Game all passed through here last year. Currently, Ridley Scott, who filmed sections of Gladiator in southern Morocco, is shooting his latest, Black Hawk Down, in and around the capital city of Rabat.

Why here? For directors seeking pristine desert locales, there’s almost no better place. As for Morocco’s other benefits, take your pick: cheap labor, a stable government, and a genuinely hospitable attitude. ”It’s a very friendly country towards filming,” says Black Hawk producer Jerry Bruckheimer. ”Film companies seem to have good experiences there.”

Reality Check ”I was misinformed” said Bogie when Claude Rains told him Casablanca was nowhere near the water. Actually, he wasn’t — much of Morocco is desert, but both Casablanca and Rabat are located right on the ocean, specifically, the North Atlantic.