Our intrepid guide remarks, “The greatest battles have taken place here,” with a mischievous grin, but quickly adds, “in the movies at least.” He’s referring to the epic clashes seen in films like Gladiator, Prince of Persia: Body of Lies, and Kingdom of Heaven, all shot in the charming Draa Valley city of Ouarzazate. This slice of Morocco’s southeast has a magnetic appeal for Hollywood’s top directors, thanks to its rugged, earthy brown and red landscapes that serve as natural movie sets, alongside the five-century-old UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ksar Aït Benhaddou, famously featured in Game of Thrones.
However, there’s more to this village than just cinematic history. Enter Taman’Art Space, an eccentric art gallery cleverly doubling as a bed and breakfast. From the roadside, it may appear unassuming, blending in with its sandy brown neighbours. But crossing its wooden threshold feels like stepping into an alternate dimension. The walls are adorned with artworks by Aissa Joud, the artist who resides in the basement below. Every piece of furniture, from the steel barrel bath basin to the lights crafted from old gas cans and bottles, tells a story pulled from different places and times.
At 29 years old, Joud, a talented artist from Warzazai, stands as one of Morocco’s most successful artist-entrepreneurs. After refining his craft at the Institute of Traditional Arts in Casablanca and showcasing his work in numerous exhibitions, he had an ambitious vision: to draw people to his beloved region.
“I aspired to fuse art, culture, and tourism into a single endeavour,” he explains.
Prior to Taman’Art’s emergence, the region lacked a prominent art scene. Taman’Art Space has since firmly established itself as a creative haven where artists find inspiration and locals enjoy a cafe while visitors discover a welcoming home away from home.
The guesthouse is perched above Joud’s art studio on the ground floor, and he’s more than willing to give you a tour if you ask politely. Outside, you’ll find a charming garden and an inviting outdoor patio. Ascend the stairs, and you’ll step into a shared living room adorned with upcycled materials, vibrant artwork, and delightful, hidden quirks for the observant eye. There are two bedrooms, one furnished with a queen-sized bed, while the other offers two single beds, making it the perfect accommodation for a couple or a small family.
Art Gallery and Terrace
You’ll find a petite yet captivating art gallery on the upper floor displaying Joud’s masterpieces. Guests are encouraged to explore and take in the artistic wonders on display.
After indulging your artistic curiosity, settle into a cosy spot on the terrace and bask in the panoramic vistas of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Here, you’ll find an assortment of upcycled, mismatched chairs and lounges, perfect for sinking into while savouring a cup of refreshing mint tea.
Part of the enchantment of this place lies in the joy of leisurely exploration; you’ll often stumble upon unexpected delights like a hallway portrait of Jake Gyllenhaal or a cleverly repurposed water can transformed into a unique floor lamp.
Having bought the property just before the pandemic, Joud is forever changing the place, replacing artworks with local artists in the region.
“I would like Taman’Art to become a major cultural actor in my region. I would like to give back life to this valley that has been forgotten for many years.”