We amble along shady lanes, in the midst of trees and exotic plants of dreamy origin; we walk past refreshing, burbling streams and pools filled with water lilies and lotus flowers; we hear wafting through the air, laden with sugared fragrance, the rustling of leaves and the chirping of numerous birds who come here to take refuge.From jardinmajorelle.com/ang/
If you ask a tourist where he or she spent most of their time in Morocco, the answer will most likely be in the medina. The term medina comes from Arabic and means “town” but medina also stands for the old walled part of a any town in North Africa. While they are a cornucopia of colours, smells and people, leaving the medina can be a a welcoming experience.
Jardin Majorelle is one of the most visited places of Marrakech (850 000 people a year) and it is outside the medina; it is a part of the Ville Nouvelle (see getting around). I mentioned that it was a particularly hot February when we visited Morocco and this botanical garden was a welcome escape from the heat. In my new blue babouches, wearing a long summer dress I had got for a bargain in a charity shop back home, I have to admit I felt like an under dressed Arabian princess gliding over the dark terra cotta coloured path. The scruffy looking husband in his army shorts and flat cap did not help this image.
After refilling our water bottles at the entrance, we took the left turn as it seemed to have less people. Even though we got there for about 11, there was already quite a crowd. It was still manageable, especially away from the blue house and the pond where the majority of visitors congregated. But the blue house is not the only boldly coloured part of the garden. The brilliant colours that Jardin Majorelle is known for can be seen right from the start. Big clay pots in perfect sequence of cobalt blue and sunshine yellow frame the path. To the left, the bamboos that were planted anew after the then forgotten garden had been bought by fashion designers Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Berge in the 80s, to the right a gazebo in red, green, white and blue. From the gazebo a long narrow pool leads the view all the way to the highlight of the garden – the blue house, the Berber Museum, surrounded by tall cacti. Back on the path and soon we saw a sheltered pond with fat koi carp, shining white and orange over a mosaic bottom.
Jardin Majorelle is something of a pilgrimage for the fans of Yves Saint-Laureant. After he and Berge had bought the garden and restored it to its glory from the days of the original owner Jacques Majorelle, the French designer often visited their garden for inspiration and refuge. When he died in 2008, his ashes were scattered over the garden. His memorial is tucked into a corner, surrounded by plants and accompanied by bird song. And by the chit chat of people. The memorial, like the blue house that is mere meters away, is a hotspot for the visitors.
And here we come to the main attraction, the part that seems full even on a slower day – the famous Majorelle blue house (FYI, the colour was trademarked by Majorelle before his death in 1962). Covered in bushy flowers and surrounded by cacti, with a pond full of terrapins on one side and a water fountain on other. This is where most photos are taken. This is where you will have to wait for that perfect selfie. This is where you inner mizantrop might peak out. This is also where the wow effect of the combination of colours is most noticeable. In a world where we are getting used to over saturated colours on photos to make them more eye catching, it is difficult to describe just how vibrant these colours are in real life.
The garden houses three museums, Berber Museum, Islamic Art Museum and Yves Saint-Laurent Museum. Recently they launched the online booking system in order to avoid massive queues and overcrowding. This is where you will find the most correct prices (in case they change from this post to when you travel) and avoid queuing for long (an hour in high season).
One thing I wanted to mention is the entrances, there are two. We did not know about the online booking system so we queued for the tickets. Luckily it was February… If you want to visit just the garden, you need to use the entrance that goes straight to the garden. If you want to visit one of the museums and the garden, you need to take the entrance to the Yves museum, They are both on Rue Yves Saint-Laureant, about a minute away from each other. Don’t lose time in the wrong queue because your partner could not be bothered to ask about this at the counter -.-
With all the vibrant colours, acrobatic terrapins and sleeping cats, I cannot say this is the most beautiful garden we have visited. I found the botanical garden in Berlin better, with many more plant species. However, is Majorelle Garden worth a visit? Yes, if nothing else, then to see these unrealistically bright colours! It is also a good reason to leave the medina and use the public transport.
As a reference, there are two other gardens in Marrakech. One is the Menara Gardens, close to the airport and free to visit. The other is Le Jardin Secret which is in the heart of the medina, in the souks. The ticket is 70 MAD per person, like the Majorelle. We have not visited these two so I can’t tell you if they are any better or worse.
Another part of the Ville Nouvelle. It is a quick walk from Jardin Majorelle. This part of Marrakech is a lot more modern as it was built in the 20th century by the French. It was the first town to be built outside the Marrakech medina. What started as a military camp quickly turned into an Art Deco quarter that attracts art lovers and those missing a European feel in Marrakech. Our visit to Gueliz was short – we went to the train station to get our tickets for the train to Fes and then walked the length of it all the way down to Dar el Bacha.
However, we did stop at Amal Women’s Training Center for lunch. The reason I am specifically mentioning this place is that it is a non-profit organisation that empowers disadvantaged women through cooking. We had a really nice lunch, for a good price and helped a good cause. If you find yourself in this neighbourhood, give them a visit, even if only for some dessert.