'Sex and the City' Was Too Sexy for Arab World

The trailer for the much-anticipated "Sex and the City" sequel teases an Arabian adventure: Carrie Bradshaw and her gal pals trade Fifth Avenue for glitzy malls, cabs for camels and headbands for turbans. From the looks of it, the "City" has landed in the Persian Gulf.

Well, sort of. In "Sex and the City 2," opening in theaters next month, Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda leave Manhattan for a luxury vacation set in Abu Dhabi. Yet the ample Abu Dhabi scenes were filmed in Morocco. Why?

It seems "Sex and the City" may have been too sexy a concept for the Middle East.

"Half the story was originally set around Dubai," said a filmmaker here who worked with the "SATC" producers. "Ski Dubai was in, the Dubai Creek was in ... it was all about Dubai. They wanted the girls to be in a rich, modern Arab city."

Video: Sex and the City trailer.
Sex and the City 2 movie trailer

Producers worked for six months to obtain shooting permits; Sarah Jessica Parker, the movie's main star and its executive producer, was personally involved in advancing the request. But eventually, it was denied based on moral objections to the movie's name -- "Sex and the City."

In August, Dubai Studio City, the authority that grants filming permission, released a statement saying it "referred the script to the relevant government authority to review the same by taking into consideration the multicultural fabric of the society and its perceptions." It added, "further to the recommendation of the government authority, the request for filming was declined."

The film's producers then went to Abu Dhabi as a replacement, and sensed they would be fine to shoot there. But Dubai urged Abu Dhabi to decline, said the filmmaker involved in the process, apparently because of embarrassment that Abu Dhabi might say yes when Dubai said no.

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"There was a phone call from Dubai. It became political," the filmmaker said.

Authorities in Dubai and Abu Dhabi did not immediately respond to ABCNews.com's requests for comment on the exchange. U.S. based producers of "Sex and the City 2" also did not respond.

For the "Sex and the City 2" crew, Morocco was the next-best option, provided they could make Morocco look like Abu Dhabi.

"The film needed a modern Arab city," the filmmaker said, given the way it was scripted, and the locale "needed to be up-market, with the girls shopping and whatnot."

So they kept Abu Dhabi in the script -- not Dubai, the filmmaker noted, "because they didn't want to give Dubai the big marketing boost after the city gave them so much trouble."

"This is worth $100 million to a city, because it's an iconic film," the filmmaker added. "People want to go where the girls went."

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