Thursday, January 23, 2014

85. Jardin Majorelle

Probably one of Marrakech's most famous - and popular - landmarks is the Jardin Majorelle.

The creation of this amazing garden dates back to 1924 when celebrated French artist Jacques Majorelle ( 1886-1962  ) moved to Marrakech to recover from a heart attack. Here he acquired land in the new district of the city and established this botanic paradise around his studio / house.

Over two decades he laboured on laying out his garden and in 1947 he first opened the garden to the public as a showcase of cacti, palms, bamboos and other exotic plants he had collected from Northern Africa. Today it is considered as one of the most notable collection of rare plants from the area.

The garden hosts more than 15 bird species that are endemic to North Africa, and central to the property is a large pond fed by many fountains and water channels that criss-cross the garden;  giving the effect of a desert oasis.

Though Jacques Majorelle's watercolour paintings are largely forgotten today, these gardens that he created are a perhaps his greatest masterpiece ... and the special shade of deep cobalt blue that he used extensively in the garden and its buildings, has now been named after him - majorelle blue.

I visited the garden in the mid-afternoon on a very bright winter's day - and the play of crisp sunlight filtering through the blackness of the dense foliage then reflecting off the blue and red and yellow painted shapes,  gave the place quite a rare mystical force.





After Jacque Majorelle's death in 1962 - following a road accident - the property fell inrto disrepair until 1980, when French couturier Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge purchased the garden and began a major restoration program. 

After Yves Saint Laurent died in 2008 his ashes were scattered in the Jardin Majorelle. The property was given to the Yves Saint Laurent - Pierre Berge Foundation in Paris to ensure its continuing existence.

YSL memorial

For many years, right up to his death, YSL made a collage "love" poster and sent copies to his friends and business associates as a Christmas greeting. Within the garden is a tiny gallery exhibiting these fanciful posters ...  

Gallery of YSL posters

The studio and house once occupied by Jacques Majorelle now houses the Berber Museum, whose stunning collection includes North African textiles, rare Berber jewellery, pottery and musical instruments - much from the personal collection of YSL. The museum does not allow photography - sorry. 

Museum entrance

And of course - like most notable sites in this exciting city - there is a cafe attached - and after all this greenery I couldn't resist Moroccan pancakes with thick melted chocolate and almonds washed down with a cafe au lait.

A sultan's palace next blog ...