FUERTE'S FORTE; Its Stark Beauty Is Beloved by Movie Directors, So Neil Masuda Sought out the Bigger Picture in Fuerteventura
Byline: Neil Masuda
To a world-famous movie director, location shots are key - that's why Sir Ridley Scott chose Fuerteventura to shoot his latest epic. With its hugely diverse terrain and long tracts of uninhabited land and mountains, the Canary island possesses an almost otherworldly quality.
The island's name is derived from the words for strong winds, which have caused its many sand dunes, often carried from the Sahara by the trade winds.
It was regarded in ancient times more as a place where people would be deported as a punishment, rather than the tourist destination it has become.
But, paradoxically, its stark and occasionally bleak countryside has lent it a quality that is now attracting some of the world's biggest movie stars.
Our excellent guide Raul Herrera excitedly explained that the week I was there, Sir Ridley would be busy recruiting local extras for his biblical movie Exodus, which has Christian Bale playing Moses and other stars, such as Sigourney Weaver and Sir Ben Kingsley, in the cast.
Fuerteventura was also used as a backdrop by Sacha Baron Cohen for his movie The Dictator, as well as action movies Fast & Furious 6 and The Invader. Sir Ridley began casting for his anticipated blockbuster in Corralejo, a small coastal town that has doubled in size following the relatively recent influx of tourists.
But, fortunately, that increase in popularity has not prevented the place remaining a quiet haven where boat owners moor their small yachts.
The first settlers in Fuerteventura are believed to have arrived from North Africa. The word Mahorero, or Maho, used to describe the local inhabitants, comes from mahos - a type of goatskin shoe - and, indeed, goats have been part of the scenery for millennia and still provide much clothing, meat, milk... and cheese.
We were given a tour of a shop in the village of Tiscamanita that produces awardwinning goat's cheese, a speciality on the island. Owner Julian Diaz, 50, took time to talk us through the whole process and was rightly proud of some particularly tasty, prize-winning results. Goat is also one of the principal meats - roasted or stewed, both from kids and older animals eaten by the islanders.
Unsurprisingly, bearing in mind its position in the Atlantic, the locals also enjoy various types of seafood, as well as the ubiquitous papas arrugadas, a dish of wrinkled potatoes served with mojo, which is a hot pepper sauce.
Earlier, we had visited the Museo del Sal (the Salt Museum). No, not the sort of place that would be first on your list of must-see places, but it is very well curated and describes the importance of the salt trade in the island's development. …