#056 - Joel Daniel Phillips

#056 - Joel Daniel Phillips


Destination: Ourika Valley, Morocco
Date: 8 - 15 June, 2019

Details about the print:
± 50 x 70 cm 
Colours: to be determined
50 prints, signed and numbered by the artist
Expected shipping: Second week of October 2019
Price: 75€ (+shipping)

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Travel diary

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Arriving somewhere new is always strange, but I think it might be the most so when you arrive in a new place after dark. It took us ages to get our rental car, and by the time we did the sun was setting and we still had an hour drive in front of us to get to our hotel in Ourika Valley. Roads in Morocco are mostly unlit so far, with a constant chaos of scooters, motorcycles and unlit bicycles and giant potholes, in addition to the many folks walking about on the often non-existent verge. Needless to say the travel blogs might have been right about trying to avoid night driving here for sanity’s sake.

Impressions so far are hence a bit limited, but I’m already in love with the textures of everything. I’m laying in bed right now to a chorus of crickets outside, and I can’t wait to see what this country brings in the daylight. 

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Today was the first real day in Morocco, and it was a blast. After starting the day with a quick breakfast (traditional Moroccan Msemen bread with butter and jam) we jumped in the car for Setti Fatma Falls in the Ourika Valley. The falls were a beautiful hour’s drive up into the Atlas Foothills along a river, with cafes, shops, and restaurants scattered along the sides.   

We had very little to go on besides a Pin on google maps, so we once we decided to go along with his insistence, we were quite delighted to meet a local guide named Youseff, who took us under his wing for the day. He hiked with us up to the beautiful seven falls, and then guided us up a further path to an overlook of the entire canyon. After the hike, he brought us back to his house in his village along the river, introduced us to his kids and brother, and upon hearing that I was on the lookout for a carpet, brought us to his village’s cooperative, where they collectively sell all of the rugs his Berber community makes. (Side note: I’m 99% sure I got totally taken on the price, but I was delighted regardless) 

After the carpet-murder of my wallet was over, Youseff jumped in our car with us and showed us the way along an incredibly narrow and windy dirt road up the mountainside to another nearby village, where he fed us a late but delicious picnick lunch of tinned fish in tomato sauce on Msemen bread. We then wound our way back down the mountain, dropped him off back home, and headed back to the hotel to watch the sunset over the valley from the terrace. All in all, and amazing way to start the trip. 


Monday, June 10, 2019

On our third day we started bright and early and we jumped in the car at 6:30 am to begin our 450 kilometer drive from Ourika, through the High Atlas Mountains to M’Hamid and the Erg Chegaga dunes in the Sahara. Driving in Morocco turns out not to be for the faint at heart, and the roads through the mountains were narrow and only partly paved, with beautiful but terrifying drops off the edge of the road only rarely separated by any kind of guardrails. 

We had a blast, and made great time through the mountains and stopped for a break at Aït Benhaddou, a 17th century Kasbah along what was once the busiest caravan route in the world from Timbuktu to Marrakech. Aït Benhaddou is a UNESCO world heritage site, and was one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been. A young man named Jamal introduced himself to us and proceeded to give us the classic un-asked for Moroccan tour of the Kasbah - where he grew up. After the tour he brought us back to his home and showed us props given to him from the various films shot there, from Gladiator to a more recent episode of Game of Thrones. (Note: if Emilia Clarke sees this, Jamal says hello) 

Once we left Aït Benhaddou, we were beginning the enter the Sahara proper, and spent another 6 hours driving through some of the hottest and most beautiful spaces I’ve ever seen to M’Hamid, quite literally the last town on the road. (Read: the road actually ends here - then the real Sahara begins). We spent the night with a group of brothers who run a camp in the dunes outside of town, playing music and chatting until far too late, before sleeping under the stars. 

The Sahara is incredibly striking, both beautiful and terrifying in equal measure. The sense of your own smallness and insignificance in the face of such an expansive and inhospitable landscape is impossible to avoid. We watched the sun set over a seemingly endless expanse of dunes and marveled at the space, and the rigour it would take to make a life here like so many people do.


Tuesday, June 11, 2019

After riding a camel for 5 kilometers, I can tell you without hesitation that the caravans that crossed the Sahara from Timbuktu to Marrakech were probably some of the most badass humans to ever walk the planet. (Read: riding camels is in no way comfortable) We started our day with a camel ride from the campsite in the desert back to M’Hamid proper, and after my hips popped back into joint, spent a day hiding from the heat before taking a 4x4 50 kilometers out past where the roads stop to Erg Chegaga, some of the largest dunes in the Sahara.

I’m not quite sure I can put into words the terrifying expansiveness of Erg Chegaga - we sat on top of a 300 meter tall dune and watched the sun set over an endless expanse of dunes, stretching to the horizon. The textures and patterns the wind make in the sand might have been the most striking part beyond the incredible sense of space that the Sahara exudes. Each dune was textured with a myriad of waves and ripples, never quite repeating, shifting and changing as far as I could see. 

We slept on mats under the open sky, and the entire Milky Way was visible in colorful detail. Even though I was exhausted after a long and very hot day, it was almost impossible to close my eyes. 


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Not much to report on day five, besides an impression of just how much life manages to exist in the edges of the Sahara. We spent almost 11 hours driving from the dunes all the way out to the coast, and spent the evening in the startlingly touristy (after 4 days in rural areas) town of Agadir. The day was seemingly endless, with incredibly long stretches of dry, empty country interspersed with small and strikingly lush green Oasis accompanied by small towns. It might have been one of the more beautiful drives I’ve ever done, but the nagging sense that a flat tire in the middle of nowhere in 110 degree heat would be a bit of a problem kept me from truly relaxing and enjoying the ride. 

Friday, June 14, 2019

Essaouira is a beautiful 2.5 hour drive up the coast from Agadir, and is famous as a laid back beach enclave for artists of types. Everyone from Jimi Hendrix to Orson Welles spent time here, and it seemed a fitting place to finish out our time in Morocco. 

Our hotel was located inside the historic Medina, or what was once the walled part of the town, located on the tip of a peninsula. The Medina is a winding warren of delightful, walking only alleyways filled with tiny shops and restaurants, meandering in seemingly random directions. We spent the day wandering, and then watched the sun set from a rooftop bar and started chatting with the folks around us. After an amazing, meandering conversation with a couple from Ireland/Seattle about the philosophy of science fiction, we made friends with a table of Moroccan brothers and their partners who took us under their wings for the evening and we drank and danced until way too late. Moroccan clubs are delightful in an amazingly overstated way.

When we told them we were heading to Marrakech the following day our new friends insisted we stay another day and skip the tourist craziness of Marrakech, and we happily agreed. 

Our last day in Morocco was lovely, and started with a run on the beach, and after spending the day wandering again we met up with our new friends and had a delightful evening drinking way too much Sambucca and debating obscure points of philosophy. We got kicked out of the long-closed bar at 2am, and then one of the brothers and I proceeded to get lost in the Medina for an hour trying to find a kitten to bring back to the hotel. All in all, a wonderful way to finish our trip.