majorelle garden marrakech
Far from the hustle and bustle of the city, the souks, the narrow streets and other exotic corners of Marrakech, the Majorelle garden offers a surprising and refreshing scene. Located in the Guéliz, the city’s European quarter, close to the bustling Place Jemaa el Fna, it is surprisingly quiet and refined. Travellers from all over the world visit this garden, attracted by its beauty and history.
With its lush palm trees and fountains, this garden was created by the French painter Jacques Majorelle. The artist designed this horticultural masterpiece in 1924. It took him years to realise his idea of an oasis of serenity and harmony to complement a building in deep indigo and a mixture of Moorish and Art Deco styles. In 1980, when the garden had fallen into disrepair, the designer Yves Saint Laurent fell in love with it and bought it.
History of the Majorelle Garden. An artist’s dream
The history of the Jardin Majorelle dates back to 1917. That was the year the French painter Jacques Majorelle arrived in Marrakech. He fell in love with the city at first sight, seduced by its colours and energy. Here he found a source of inspiration, a place that suited his creative imagination. Years later, he bought a plot of land surrounded by palm trees. Step by step, he transformed it into his home, his studio and his personal paradise.
The Moorish-Spanish style of the main building, the Bou Saf Saf villa, was embellished with bold Art Deco touches in the area he used as his studio. In 1937, the building was painted a vivid cobalt blue to contrast with the other colours of the yellow and orange of the walls, pergolas, fountains and other decorative features. This intense colour scheme gives visitors the feeling of being inside a painting. In the garden, the shady paths, streams and ponds, water lilies and lotus flowers transport the visitor to another reality.
Just as Monet painted the famous garden at Giverny (immortalised in his paintings of water lilies), Majorelle poured his skills into the space that bears his name and embodies the spirit of his art. Walking around the garden, you will see Mediterranean plants mixed with those from the subtropics. Palms, hibiscus, jasmine, fig trees, cypresses, oleanders, orange and banana trees, bougainvillea, coconut palms, agaves, yucca, bamboo and cacti all contribute to the exuberance and seductive quality of the garden.
The garden was opened to the public in 1946. Its creator decided to open it to the public in order to reduce the high cost of maintaining it. The fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, the businessman and patron Pierre Bergé (both great admirers of Morocco), came here in the late 1960s and felt a strong attraction to the place.
Majorelle garden Marrakech
Yves Saint Laurent and his oasis of a villa
When Yves Saint Laurent first saw the Jardin Majorelle, he felt a connection between its elegance and colour and his work in the world of fashion. A passion for Eastern culture is present in every aspect of Saint Laurent’s life and work. His love affair with the work of Majorelle was a long one. He himself said that what he discovered there served to heighten the boldness of his designs and his own use of colour.
In 1980, with the house falling into disrepair and the garden neglected, Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé decided to buy the property. This prevented the house from being turned into a hotel and kept the legacy of Jacques Majorelle alive. A renovation was undertaken. The designer Bill Willis was brought in and new species of plants were added to the garden; the original 135 species were increased to over 300.
The Bou Saf Saf villa became Villa Oasis, the Marrakech residence of Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé. Many of Saint Laurent’s fashion collections were inspired by Morocco. The garden remains open to the public, and Majorelle’s former studio has been turned into a museum with an interesting collection of Berber art.
After his death in 2008, Yves Saint Laurent’s ashes were scattered at Villa Oasis. A small, modest memorial with a Roman column was erected in the garden. As a gesture of gratitude for his love of the city, the street where the garden is located was renamed Rue Yves Saint Laurent. Today, the Jardin Majorelle is managed by the Fondation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent. A team of around 20 gardeners looks after this beautiful attraction, which is visited by around 700,000 tourists every year.
What to see in the Menara Garden, a place to linger
What is a garden for if not to stop and relax? In this magical corner of Marrakech, in the former French protectorate, a sense of tranquillity will envelop you. Jacques Majorelle’s love of art and plants can still be felt as you stroll along the central walkway and the winding paths that wind through the garden. If you visit at off-peak times, the tranquillity of the garden is broken only by the singing of birds, in stark contrast to the constant bustle of the medina.
The greenery of the Majorelle Garden contrasts with the intensity of the primary colours, especially the blue that dominates the architecture. As you walk around, you will come across ponds, streams and fountains that complement the planting scheme. In the southern part of the garden there is an impressive collection of palm trees. As well as native species, there are specimens from various parts of Africa, the South Pacific, the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands.
Around 60 other species of cacti, trees and exotic plants make up this living work of art. The aquatic plants, such as water lilies and Asian lotus flowers, contrast with the desert that surrounds the city of Marrakech. Another highlight is the small bamboo grove that stretches across the garden from south to west.
Visit to the Berber Museum
The Majorelle Garden has a snack bar and a large part of Jacques Majorelle’s former studio is now the Berber Museum, open to the public. The museum is divided into three rooms dedicated to the native inhabitants of Morocco. A tour of the museum reveals the extraordinary creativity of this people, the oldest ethnic group in North Africa.
The museum contains nearly 600 items collected by Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent from various regions, from the Rif to the Sahara. The mirror room contains an impressive collection of carved, enamelled and filigree jewellery.
The Yves Saint Laurent Museum, close to the garden
The Majorelle Garden, the Berber Museum and, since 2017, the Yves Saint Laurent Museum make up a tour dedicated to the famous fashion designer. The centre dedicated to his designs is located on the street that bears his name, a stone’s throw from the Majorelle Garden. This 4,000 m2 building houses thousands of haute couture garments and accessories. They were selected by Pierre Bergé, Saint Laurent’s partner, who died the year the museum opened. Iconic pieces by the designer await the visitor in a building that combines modern and traditional Moroccan influences. The museum has a bookshop, a research library, an auditorium and a snack bar.
Majorelle garden Marrakech
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