A visit to the botanical garden Jardin Majorelle is a must for tourists in Marrakech.
And with good reason: the lush green of the plants and the unique blue of the buildings stand in fascinating contrast to the dusty red of the rest of the city.
Created in 1923 by the French painter Jacques Majorelle, the garden has retained its very own magic to this day, almost 100 years. In our time, the Jardin Majorelle is the most visited attraction in Morocco and, with its almost 4000 square meters, is one of the most beautiful gardens in the world. Besides the lush plants from a variety of continents, the main reason is probably the blue walls of the villa and basins.
The bright, deep blue was specially developed by Jacques Majorelle and still bears the name Majorelle Blue.
The painter’s refuge
Jacques Majorelle, born in 1886, was fascinated from an early age by the light, colors and shapes of the North African world, which he first encountered in Egypt in 1910.
In 1919 he settled in Marrakech and shortly thereafter began building a villa outside the old city walls of the medina. Gardens and a studio followed.
Finally, in 1949, he opened the garden to visitors for the first time.
Majorelle lived in Marrakech until a year before his death in 1962, during which time he created numerous paintings attributed to Orientalism. His works can be seen today in various museums in Nancy, his birthplace in France.
The garden barely escapes destruction
In 1962, Yves Saint Laurent, the great French fashion designer, came to Marrakech for the first time with his partner Pierre Bergé and instantly fell in love with the city. He, too, was captivated by the bustling life, the powerful colors and, above all, the light of Morocco. Marrakech becomes a source of inspiration for him and during his stays he always visits the Jardin Majorelle.
In 1980, the garden and the empty villa, which had fallen into disrepair, were threatened with destruction by investors. Saint Laurent and Bergé buy the property without further ado and thus save the garden from destruction.
Yves Saint Laurent and his love for Marrakech
Seeming to be a creative distraction in the beginning, it quickly becomes Saint Laurent’s most important retreat from the demands of the fashion industry. In 2002, Yves Saint Laurent retires from the fashion business and spends much of his time in his Villa Oasis, which adjoins the garden, until his death in 2008.
As early as 1997, Pierre Bergé founded The Majorelle Trust, which still takes care of the preservation of the garden and the villa. The garden is still open to the public, and in 2017 the foundation opened the Musée Yves Saint Laurent right next door, which is also well worth seeing. The Villa Oasis, in whose garden Yves Saint Laurent’s ashes were scattered, can unfortunately not be visited.
The blue villa is simply photogenic
Today, tall palms, dense bamboo, large cacti and the element of water determine the first impressions of visitors in the Jardin Majorelle. Initially hidden and sparsely visible — later dominant and immersive, the Majorelle blue floods the senses and perception, lets the various shades of green fade away, takes over the sensual dominance of the experience. Remains in memory. Determines the photos.
So it’s no wonder that a large number of visitors wander through the garden looking for something. Supplied with snapshots of other travelers, their search is for the perfect spot for a selfie or a post on Instagram. There may be enough time for refreshments in the garden’s cafeteria, and the visit is over.
The Jardin Majorelle is a magical place
But there are also visitors with calm and the search for tranquility. They get involved with the garden, take their time.
If you dare to experiment and take a seat on one of the many benches, let the place take effect on you, you will experience the whole magic of the Jardin Majorelle!
A cool breeze gently brushes over the resting observer, makes the great heat outside the walls of the garden fade into the shade of the trees, refreshes and invigorates the thoughts.
The cooing of doves, which call in love for their mate at the very top of the palm trees, can be heard from time to time. The bamboo grove rustles softly, accompanied by the distant croaking of frogs in the water lily pool. Cheeky and demanding, the gray bulbul warbles its dominant song in the branches of the large trees, accompanied in the background with emphatic feeling by the song of a house sparrow or a cactus wren.
Those who take time to enjoy the beauty of the Jardin Majorelle will feel the true power of the garden, the inspiration for new ideas, the dreaminess and the joy of life. The garden is a constant play of light and shadow. Shadows that move throughout the day with the sun and its dramaturgical play of light, so that no place remains visually the same.
The garden is a virtuous play of proportions and shapes, in which each trunk of the palms and the bamboo grove conveys its own sense of space. And it is a play with surfaces. Smooth and iridescent surfaces from the bamboo alternate with the rough trunks of the trees. Fluted and with almost symmetrical surfaces, the palm trunks reach high.
In between, the various leaves and palm fronds move almost like dreamy dancers in the interplay of sun and shadow, impressively recognizable in the palm garden.
Benches are in many places, they all invite you to take a journey into the hidden beauty of the garden.
The variety of cacti is indescribable
The shade of the palm trees on one side of the central watercourse is answered by the towering cacti in their raked beds with unobstructed views of the blue sky and blinding sun. At the end of the watercourse rests a small pavilion, perfectly placed in the long line of sight along the water. The water cleverly, almost imperceptibly, separates the palm grove from the cactus garden.
Between the cacti, a shadow play of thousands of spines awaits the eye of the observer.
Symmetrically lined up, following nature’s unique blueprint, they protect their wearers from unwelcome access.
Every now and then a flower attracts insects, promises nectar, while shining in rich bright colors.
The cactus garden is characterized by shapes and rhythmic repetitions that let the eye see new patterns everywhere.
The garden as a canvas
If you spend a little time in this place and let your eyes wander, you can quickly understand why it was such an inspiration for Yves Saint Laurent.
Shapes, patterns, structures, and color gradations are everywhere. As a contrast, Jacques Majorelle’s picturesque villa all in blue peeks out between this exuberant tropical lushness.
It seems as if the life-giving element of water virtually springs from the Majorelle blue and thus breathes abundant life into the garden. Framed in the Majorelle blue, the symmetrical water basin surrounded by plants attracts the viewer’s gaze.
As if Majorelle had just placed them on the canvas with a brush, water lily blossoms in delicate pink and yellow dance as splashes of color on the water, while in the reflection the blue tones of house and sky merge. Above all, the long fronds of the tall palm trees watch over, repeatedly forming a light-flooded canopy, providing shade and rustling with a silvery sound in the wind.
Mystical is the visit in the cool of the morning, when the first visitors are admitted and nature from the night still exudes this fresh unspent power.
In the evening, as if a visual stockpile had to be created for the night, the soft light of the setting sun enchants the eye of the beholder. At this time, the blue and the colors of the cacti appear once again completely different, intense, unforgettable. Leaving the garden as one of the last guests is an experience all its own.
Allow yourself enough time in this wonderful garden,
to let the magic work on you.
You won’t regret it!
Rue Yves Saint Laurent
Marrakech 40090, Maroc
(+212) 524 29 86 86
Opening hours 09:00 — 18:00
For the garden, you can buy tickets online to avoid waiting.
In the garden there is also a small boutique and a cafe.
Right next door is the Musée Yves Saint Laurent, which is well worth seeing, with a good cafeteria.
There are also combined tickets for garden and museum.