If you ever begin to explore Morocco’s imperial city of Marrakech, you probably wouldn’t be able to avoid stumbling across Majorelle Garden. Covering an area of 12 acres, Majorelle Garden is perhaps best described as being a big and very beautiful botanical garden more or less right in the heart of Marrakech. However, it is by no means your average botanical garden. Instead, it is an artist’s landscaped garden, albeit a very large one which was created over a period of about 40 years.
Today, the Majorelle Garden is still privately own and is managed by a dedicated non-profit organization. The garden, along with the villa in which the artist owner once lived with his wife, is open to the public. The garden is also home to the city’s Islamic Art Museum and the Berber Museum, Musée Berbère Jardin Majorelle.
A Brief History of Marrakech’s Majorelle Garden
Majorelle Garden was created by Jacques Majorelle, a French artist who lived from 1886 to 1962. In 1917, Jacques Majorelle, who was already an aspiring painter, was sent to Morocco to recuperate from a serious medical problem.
He initially decided to live in Casablanca, but like so many others before him, he soon traveled to Marrakech, and quickly feel in love with the city’s bright colors and its charming street life.
After spending some time in Marrakech, Jacques Majorelle then spent some time traveling around North Africa and the Mediterranean before deciding to settle down in Marrakech.
In 1919 he married Andrée Longueville, and a few years later the couple purchased 4 acres of land adjacent to a large palm grove.
A number of years later, they commissioned an architect to design a Cubist-style villa on the property in which he and his wife would live until their divorce in 1950.
During these years, he devoted practically all of his time to creating a spectacular garden, and on a number of occasions he purchased addition pockets of adjacent land in order to accommodate his ever-expanding garden.
By 1947, the immense creativity and the sheer size of the garden were making it very costly to maintain. In order to help offset some of the cost, the artist opened the garden to the general public, charging visitors an entrance fee.
The Death and Rebirth of Majorelle Garden
Shortly after his divorce, Jacques Majorelle was forced to sell both the villa and the garden. Following this event, the garden soon fell into a state of disrepair as a result of total neglect.
Fortunately, in the 1980s, Yves Saint-Laurent, the world-famous fashion designers, rediscovered Majorelle Garden, and Pierre Bergé immediately set about restoring the place to its for glory.
What to Expect During a Visit to the Garden
The villa, along with the garden and all other building and structures on the property have been beautifully restored and maintained. Many art lovers would describe Majorelle as having been an Orientalist painter.
In fact, many of his wonderful watercolor works have largely been forgotten, but fortunately, several of them can be seen on display in his villa when you visit.
Nonetheless, most art lovers will without doubt see the garden as being his biggest and most beautiful masterpiece.
Today, the property is owned by Foundation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent, and managed and maintained by Foundation Jardin Majorelle, both not-for-profit organizations which have once again opened both the villa and the garden to the public. In addition to housing several of Majorelle’s works, the villa is also a Berber Museum.
Over and above the art displays and other museum artifacts, the garden is also home to several bird species, with more than 15 of them being endemic to North Africa.
Other highlights include numerous beautiful fountains and a truly spectacular cacti collection.
Since it was reopened to the public, Majorelle Garden has grown to become a popular Marrakech tourist attraction. It is without question an attraction which all visitors to Marrakech should try to visit at least once during their stay in this wonderfully charismatic city.
Not surprisingly, Yves Saint Laurent’s ashes were scattered in the garden following his death in 2008