Game of Thrones, an American fantasy drama series on HBO, is adapted from the fantasy novel series ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’. With the grandeur of fantasy seeped into the mythology, it comes as no surprise that fans of the show often buzz that the root inspiration of the show originates from the middle east. Arab civilization has the most diverse and colorful stories and legends in the world. While their origins may be disputed, they have been passed down orally from generation to generation over thousands of years.
Game of Thrones in the Middle East may be unimaginable to western audiences as the series popularly encloses an everlasting gruesome struggle between the seven kingdoms of Westeros for the Iron Throne. Wars, politics, shifting alliances and cold-blooded deceptions revolve constantly around Westeros to seize control and superiority. While on the other hand, the series also brings forth supernatural elements like dragons, fire priests and the white walkers (men reborn from the dead) to depict a never-ending struggle between the living and the dead.
The Middle East may not have dragons or fire priests or even white walkers, but we do have amazing locales that can serve as an inspiration for a reshoot of season 8 or if this saga is ever captured as a motion picture. But, if you ever wondered if Game of Thrones was based in the Middle East, how rich, vast, natural the saga would look on screen?
So let’s get the fantasy cap on and imagine, if Game of Thrones was made in the Middle East, which location would be perfect to capture the nuances of the fictional sage.
Known for their grandeur, the house Targaryen are ‘old school’ rich. The only House having ‘pets’ as Dragons. With the very famous words of “Fire and Blood”, burning their enemies down by saying “Dracarys”. One can only imagine ‘Emirates Palace’ in Abu Dhabi to be their ‘Dragon Stone’. Emirates Palace is a 7-star luxury palace with 1.3 km of private beach and surrounded by 85 hectares of gardens, with 114 domes that are 80 meters high.
With a Golden Lion in a crimson field, Lannisters of the Casterly Rock took the Iron Throne after Robert Baratheon’s demise, holding up to their house words, “Hear me Roar!” The capital of Westeros, King’s Landing, can be depicted by Ribat of Sousse in Tunisia. It was built in the 8th century with an architecture similar to that of King’s Landing and is considered to be one of the modest structures back in the day.
A direwolf howling in the night. “Winter Is Coming”. It sent chills down our spine everytime Ned Stark uttered these words with such conviction. No other place could describe these chills better than Salalah in Oman. The wilderness of Winterfell and it’s hazy morning mist is perfectly represented by this only city that enjoys an official ‘khareef’ season in all of GCC.
The riches and pride of the people of Dorne with the House Nymeros Martell of Sunspear holding words like “Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken” is truly realised by the Summer Palace of Saudi Arabia, named as Tuwaiq Palace, consisting of 24,000 square metres of area. The place is a fusion of traditional art forms and modern technologies. The landscape is a mixture of desert and greenery at the edge of the city.
With a silver trout sigil, House Tully signifies “Family, Duty, Honor”. Holding the riverlands in their grasp for hundreds of years. Their seat could be easily depicted by Samarkand in Uzbekistan, a Crossroad of Cultures. This multi-cultural vantage point dates back to 7th century BC. Samarkand could be a perfect seat for the Tullies in the Middle East.
“What is dead may never die”. The words of House Greyjoy point towards the strength and determination they hold. Nothing compares more to this iconic kraken-sigil house than the Bozcaada Kalesi on Turkish Islands. The historic castle is surrounded by a moat on the other hand, and a sea by the other. Built during the Ottoman Empire, it has been demolished and risen back again to former glory time and again. It’s poetic justice that the Iron Islands and Bozcaada Kalesi (castle) may be dead, but don’t die.
“Growing strong” is what the Golden Rose is all about. Their faith and wisdom can’t be explained by any other than the Bahla Fort situated at the foot of the Jebel Akhdar Highlands in Oman. The magnificent Bahla Fort with its mud brick walls and stone foundations gives rise to a labyrinth of well enclosed structural architecture and land for cultivation. The surrounding oasis has a tunneling system that accumulates ground water and manages the seasonal flow.
As a cultural inspiration, ‘Thrones’ is a pop-cultural experience with fans of all ages. From Gen Xs to Millenials, Game of Thrones has been one of the most phenomenal TV series of all times. With the Lannisters and the Starks in a conquest of the ‘The Iron Throne’, the last surviving Targaryen took it all away riding on the back of her dragon. The series culturally unites people by television especially with places like the Middle East where people admire the art and culture. A fictional fantasy novel undeniably has its origins arab culture. To envision a ‘Game of Thrones in the Middle East’ just might not be that stretch of fantasy. Amid the pandemic, it was Ned Stark’s own words, ‘Winter is Coming’ that ring true. All we can do, as we weather the storm, is focus on singing ‘A song of ice and fire’.