Occupying a site to the north of the Medina and to the east of the ‘New Town’ created by French colonialists at the start of the 20th Century, the Jardin Majorelle is an oasis of calm and serenity amidst the chaos of Marrakech. The garden was originally laid out by Jacques Majorelle in the 1920s, and it was first opened to the public in 1947. Following Majorelle’s death in 1962, the garden was abandoned, and the entire plot was earmarked for development until it was purchased by Pierre Berge and Yves Saint Laurent in 1980. Berge and Saint Laurent set about the task of restoring and extending the garden, converting Majorelle’s former painting studio into a museum of Berber art, clothing and jewellery, and introducing new plants from around the globe. When Saint Laurent died in 2008, Berge established a Foundation to take over the running of the garden and stipulated that the profits from it should be used to support cultural, educational and social projects in Morocco or for the direct benefit of Moroccan nationals.
It’s a magical place, a literal ‘world within the world’ of the city of Marrakech. Surrounded by the high, reddish-brown adobe walls that typify the city, the space within is green and cool, with dappled light falling softly onto winding pathways between planting that is almost zen-like in its precision. Running through the centre of the garden, an artificial stream brings an architectural formality to the otherwise organic form of the paths and planting, and the sound of water running along the stream and falling from the fountain in the header pool, adds to the sense of peace. It’s a ‘must-see’ if you ever have the good fortune to find yourself with a couple of hours to spare in this amazing city.