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Imagine modern-day Marrakech: International hotels, crowded streets, and commercial establishments create a vibrant district for bustling Morocco. This is the median where Asia, Africa, and Europe all converge into one. It is a melting pot of culture, sound, and vibe that is as colorful as the architecture and design of the city.
The weather is tropical and Mediterranean. So picture yourself going around during the day, in the bustling and disorienting streets of the medina. Walkthrough the swarms of people, and it can be sweltering hot! But as you go through a small street with an iconic name, you will find a refreshing garden.
Upon your entrance, you will be transported to an oasis that is cooler and more vibrant than any other. You have entered one of the most colorful and most beautiful gardens in Morocco – Jardin Majorelle.
One Of The Most Beautiful Gardens In Marrakech
When you take two artists of different mediums and present them with over 96,000 square feet of property, the possibilities are limitless. The JARDIN MAJORELLE or Majorelle Garden is an artist’s expression in the form of a botanical garden. This enchanting garden has been called the most visited garden in Morocco, the most colorful garden in Marrakech, or one of the great gardens of the world.
But like your beloved indoor plants, this oasis in the Arab and African region did not just spring forth on its own. It took over a period of 40 years, careful care, energy, and attention for the Jardin Majorelle to come into being.
The garden is named after its creator, the Frenchman Jacques Majorelle (1186-1962). He was the son of a world-famous furniture designer named Louis Majorelle. With this influence, he took on many artistic pursuits. With his talents and exposure, Jacque Majorelle became known for his Orientalist paintings. An artistic perspective you will find sprawled all over the Jardin.
In 1917, when Majorelle arrived in Morocco, he first headed to Casablanca. As he moved around the eclectic kingdom, he fell in love with a most colorful city named Marrakech. Here in the year 1923, he purchased a portion of land near a palm grove. His artistry flourished in the exotic land, and here he gained more popularity and grew his influence. He added more to his property and began developing the land.
Inspired by all that was around him, he built a Moorish-style house. In honor of the indigenous Afro-Asiatic people, he also created the Borj. It is a Berber-style building with a tall adobe tower.
Seeing all the potential in the land, in 1931, he began undertaking a momentous project with architect Paul Sinoir. He wanted to design and build a Cubist village inside the large property. It would be near the first house where his major art studio was located and where his workshops took place.
With his property growing even more expansive, Majorelle began his lifelong, bittersweet, and passionate journey as an amateur botanist.
The Majorelle Blue
Within about 40 years, Jacques Majorelle cultivated 135 plant species. He collected plants from five continents and turned the property into a bewitching cornucopia of rare and common outdoor plants. Cacti and succulent lovers will be dazzled by the landscape of the garden. Also thriving on the property are bougainvillea trees. An abundance of perennial shrubs like the yucca plant also grows in the area. Palm and coconut trees and bananas shade the visitors. Bamboo gardens cool the temperature, and foliage like white water lilies abound.
The development and beautification of the garden took its toll on Majorelle. In one interview, he shared how expensive it had become: “This garden is a momentous task, to which I give myself entirely. It will take my last years from me, and I will fall, exhausted, under its branches, after having given it all my love.”
To help cover the maintenance cost, he opened the garden to the public in 1947. Ideally, this would have been a hopeful turn for the Frenchman, but things were not going his way. He figured in a car accident that took a portion of his finances. He then went through a difficult divorce that cost him the split of the Marrakech property. All these events drained his finances. Unfortunately, Majorelle did not pass away under the branches of the great trees of the garden but in a hospital in Paris.
Upon his death in 1962, Jacques Majorelle left a legacy. An exotic garden property and a deep shade of the color blue that has been preserved to this day.
While painting the buildings, Majorelle concocted this shade of bold cobalt blue. The color first caught his eye going around Marrakech and Berber houses. This was splattered in tiles and other accents. The intensity and luxury of the color best represent his French, Orientalist passions and the Moroccan culture all so well. Before his death, he patented this intense blue and named it Majorelle blue or bleu Majorelle.
Rue Yves Saint Laurent
You would not forget how to get to the Jardin Majorelle because the street leading to it is named after its next owner – the iconic Yves Saint Laurent.
After the death of Jacques Majorelle, the property fell into despair. There were rumors that the Jardin would be bulldozed over and turned into a hotel. This altered the Fashion designer, and he promptly purchased the property and set about the restoration project.
Saint-Laurent and his business partner Pierre Bergé were careful to stay true to the Majorelle vision. They revived the dilapidated garden and enhanced the existing structures. They employed 20 gardeners to maintain the property and added 165 plant species.
They renovated Majorelle’s villa and renamed into the opulent Villa Oasis. Here, Saint Laurent sketched some of his best and most iconic designs. From one artist to another, the beautiful garden in Morocco would be the ultimate muse.
Le Jardin Today
Currently, ownership of the property is with the not-for-profit organization, the Foundation Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent. In 2008, the ashes of the designer were scattered in the rose garden of the Jardin. The garden complex is home to various museums, including the Berber Museum, Islamic Art Museum, and Musee Yves Saint Laurent.
The garden may not be the biggest in the world or the most plant dense, but its history, ownership, and vibrant culture speaks for itself. It is full of awe-inspiring plants set against bleu Majorelle walls and yellow doors. It is definitely a must-visit when the travel bug bites you.
As one smitten tourist comments: “To be in Marrakech without visiting Majorelle Garden is like to be in Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower!”
Images are from @jardinmajorellemarrakech