Majorelle Gardens, a horticultural work of art in Marrakesh

Majorelle Gardens

Far from the hustle and bustle, the souks, the narrow streets, and other exotic corners of Marrakech, the Majorelle Gardens emerges as a refreshing and unexpected setting. In Guéliz, the European quarter of the capital, very close to the busy Jemaa el Fna Square, the silence and refinement of this enclave is surprising. Travelers from all over the world visit the place attracted by its beauty and also by its history.

   Full of palm trees and water fountains, this garden was born from the imagination of the French painter Jacques Majorelle. In 1924, the artist designed this work of vegetal art. It took him many years to see his dream come true: an oasis of serenity and harmony to accompany a deep indigo-colored building, a mixture of Moorish and Art Deco styles. In 1980, when the property had fallen into disrepair, the designer Yves Saint Laurent, in love with the surroundings, bought it.

The history of the Majorelle Garden. The dream of an artist

   The history of the Majorelle Garden dates back to 1917. That year, the French painter Jacques Majorelle arrived in Marrakech. From the first moment, he was captivated by the city, its colors, and its energy. There he found a center of inspiration, a place in tune with his creative ideas. Years later he bought a plot of land surrounded by palm trees. In several phases, he turned it into his home, his studio, and his private paradise.

   The Hispano-Moorish style of the main building, the Bou Saf Saf villa, was enriched with bold Art Deco touches in the studio area. In 1937 the building was painted a vibrant cobalt blue, contrasting with other colors such as yellow and orange on the walls, pergolas, fountains, and other decorative elements. The intense chromaticism gives the visitor the sensation of being inside a painting. The shady paths, streams, and ponds filled with water lilies and lotus flowers in the garden area, transport you to another reality.

   Just as Monet painted with his palette the famous garden of Giverny, immortalized in his paintings of water lilies, Majorelle transferred his art to this space that bears his name and participates in the same spirit of his pictorial work. Mediterranean and subtropical species are combined in the tour. Palm trees, hibiscus, jasmine, fig trees, cypresses, oleanders, orange trees, bougainvillea, banana trees, coconut trees, agaves, yuccas, bamboos, and cacti dominate this exuberant and seductive enclave.

   Public access was made possible in 1946. Its architect made the decision to organize public visits to overcome the high maintenance costs of the property. The couturier Yves Saint Laurent and his partner, the businessman, and patron of the arts Pierre Bergé, also devotees of Morocco, visited it at the end of the 1960s and felt a special attraction for the place.

Majorelle Gardens
A stroll through the Majorelle Gardens

Yves Saint Laurent and his Villa Oasis

From the first time, Yves Saint Laurent contemplated the Majorelle Garden he felt that, somehow, his work in fashion connected with the elegance and tonalities of the environment. The passion for oriental culture is present throughout Saint Laurent’s life and career. His infatuation with Majorelle’s plant work continued over time. As he came to declare, his discovery of it influenced a greater boldness and mix of colors in his designs.

   In 1980, when the house was dilapidated and the garden abandoned, she decided to buy the property, in agreement with her partner, Pierre Bergé. In this way, they prevented it from becoming a hotel and kept Jacques Majorelle’s legacy alive. The space underwent a renovation. Decorator Bill Willis was brought in and new species of plants were added to the garden (from the original 135 to more than 300).

   Bou Saf Saf’s villa became Villa Oasis, the couple’s residence in Marrakech. Many of the couturier’s collections were inspired by Morocco. The space remained open to the public and the painter’s former studio became a museum dedicated to exhibiting an interesting collection of Berber art.

   In Villa Oasis were scattered the ashes of Yves Saint Laurent after his death in 2008. A small and sober memorial with a Roman column was built inside the garden. In appreciation of his love for the city, the street on which the garden is located was renamed Rue Yves Saint Laurent. Today, the Pierre Bergé-Yves Saint Laurent Foundation is the custodian of the environment of the Majorelle Gardens. A team of about 20 gardeners takes care of this beautiful place, visited by about 700,000 tourists a year.

What to see in the Majorelle Gardens, a place to stop and take a break

If anything is possible in a garden is to stop time and haste. That feeling takes hold of the traveler in this magical corner of Marrakech, located in the area of the former French protectorate. Jacques Majorelle’s love for art and botany can still be appreciated while walking along the central path and the winding paths that shape the enclave. If you visit outside the tourist rush hour, the impressive silence of the site, broken only by birdsong, contrasts with the constant movement in the medina area.

   In the Majorelle Garden, the green of the surroundings contrasts with the intensity of other primary colors and, above all, with the blue that dominates the architecture. The visitor will find ponds, canals, and fountains that dialogue with the plant environment. An impressive collection of palm trees stands in the southern part of the garden. In addition to the species native to the area, there are others from different areas of Africa, the South Pacific, India, the Mediterranean basin, and the Canary Islands.

   Along with them, about 60 varieties of cacti, trees, and exotic flora, dominate this landscape that is a work of art in motion. The contrast with the desert surrounding the city of Marrakech is provided by aquatic plants, such as water lilies and Asian lotus flowers. And also highlights a small bamboo forest that extends from the south to the west of the garden.

Visit the Berber Museum

In the Majorelle Garden area, the visitor has at his disposal a cafeteria and can enjoy a visit to the Berber Museum, which occupies most of the former workshop of Jacques Majorelle. The center is divided into three rooms dedicated to the indigenous inhabitants of Morocco. The tour demonstrates the extraordinary creativity of these people, the oldest in North Africa.

   Nearly 600 objects, collected by Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent, from different regions, from the Rif to the Sahara, can be seen. In the area of the mirrors, a collection of chiseled, enameled, and filigree-covered jewelry is surprising.

The Yves Saint Laurent Museum, close to the garden

    The Majorelle Gardens, the Berber Museum, and, since 2017, the Yves Saint Laurent Museum, make up a route dedicated to the famous couturier. The center dedicated to his designs is located on the street that bears his name, just a few steps from the Majorelle Gardens. The 4,000-square-meter building houses thousands of haute couture garments and accessories. They were selected by Pierre Bergé, Saint Laurent’s partner, who passed away the same year the space opened. Iconic pieces by the designer await the visitor in this building of modern and traditional Moroccan influences. It has a bookstore, research library, auditorium, and cafeteria.

Frequently Asked Questions

How to get to the Majorelle Gardens?

   On foot. It is located on rue Yves Saint Laurent, in the Guéliz district, northeast of the medina. From the famous Jemaa el Fna square, it takes just over half an hour to walk. The distance is two kilometers.

   By bus. There is a bus line, the 19 Airport Shuttle Bus, which makes frequent trips between the two points.

What are the opening hours of the Majorelle Gardens?

   The opening hours of the garden are from October to April, from 8 am to 5.30 pm. From May to September it closes at 6 pm. During the month of Ramadan, the opening hours are from 9 am to 4 pm.

How much is the entrance fee to the Majorelle Gardens?

   The entrance fee to the Gardens is 70 DH (6,40 €) and to the Museum of Islamic Art 30 DH (2,80 €).

   Children under 12 years old have free admission.

What can you do in the Majorelle Gardens?

   Strolling inside, especially at times when the crowds are less crowded, is the great attraction of the Gardens. Here you can enjoy an impressive collection of palm trees and more than 60 varieties of cacti, flowers, and trees. In addition, you can visit the Berber Museum to learn more about this village, and the Yves Saint Laurent Museum, dedicated to the famous couturier.

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