Bashar Assad's palace is located on the highest spot in Damascus and looks like something from the Arabian Nights tales: 511,000 square meters (more than 5,500,000 square feet), marble halls combined with waterfalls and enchanted gardens, and a 20-meter (800-inch) high ceiling. It was built by famous Japanese architect Kenzō Tange and was inspired by Emerald City in "The Wizard of Oz."
The palace cost $1 billion to build, and the Syrian president will likely not be thrilled to see it star in a Hollywood series – especially one filmed in Israel.
It took the 150 workers of a Dutch company 10 days to duplicate the most famous parts of the palace in the Israeli city of Kfar Saba. Tanks will be brought in soon, the actors will land here within two weeks, and the $30-million production will hit the road.
The high-profile drama, "Tyrant," is being developed by "Homeland" creators Howard Gordon and Israeli director and scriptwriter Gideon Raff for American cable and satellite channel FX (owned by the Fox Entertainment Group).
The series, which will be aired this summer, tells the story of the young son of a dictator from a split nation in the Middle East, who moved to Los Angeles, married an American woman and works as a doctor. After a long exile he returns to his homeland with his family for his brother's wedding. As his country experienced political turmoil, he is dragged back into local politics against his will and his family is drawn into the workings of a turbulent Middle Eastern nation.
The show is directed by David Yates, known for "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows." The actors include Jennifer Finnigan ("The Bold and the Beautiful") and Noah Silver ("The Borgias"), as well as Israeli actresses Moran Atias and Hadar Ratzon Rotem.
After shooting the pilot in Morocco, the producers decided to film the series itself in Israel and favored the city of Kfar Saba over Herzliya.
"We are very proud that a first-of-its kind television production is about to be shot in Kfar Saba," says Mayor Yehuda Ben-Hamo. "The series will be filmed for several months in two temporary buildings north of the Caniel factory. The company will pay the municipality about NIS 500,000 ($145,000) in rent and property tax, according to an actuarial evaluation. As part of the project, Fox has committed to educational and cultural cooperation projects in favor of the city's residents."
The 12-acre area selected for the shooting is located in the northwestern part of the city. "Israel has yet to see anything like this," says a source in the production company. "People are working here around the clock on the highest level possible. These are completely different standards from what we are used to."
The compound will include two huge studios, four tents measuring about 600 square meters (6,500 square feet) in size, which will be used as dining halls and dressing rooms and serve the crew, and tanks will be parked outside. The scenes taking place inside the palace will be shot in Kfar Saba, but the real Damascus palace will be shown from the outside.