If peace, serenity and tranquility are your forte, then you really need to set some time aside for visiting Menara Gardens during your visit to Marrakech, the Red City of Morocco.
Menara Gardens date back to the 12th century are located near the Atlas Mountains, to the west of Marrakech city.
It is truly a wonderfully refreshing site to visit, and particularly if you have just completed a few days visiting Marrakech attractions located in the midst of all the hustle and bustle in the city.
A Brief History of Menara Gardens
Menara Gardens were originally created in 1130 on the orders of Abd al-Mu’min, an Almohad Caliphate ruler.
Interestingly, Abd al-Mu’min only conquered Marrakech and declared himself the Caliph in 1147. By this time, the Almoravid dynasty who had ruled Morocco previously had been completely overthrown by the Almohads.
The gardens are named after the small pavilion which stands on the site to this day. Menara is essentially a derivative of the word; pavilion and it can be loosely translated as lighthouse, despite the fact that there are no lighthouses at the gardens.
Essentially speaking, any building or part of a building with a high elevation is known as menara locally, although the spelling can differ slightly at times.
While the actually botanical gardens were originally created in 1130, the pavilion was only built during the 1500s when Morocco was being ruled by the Saadi Dynasty.
Approximately 300 years after it was built, the pavilion with its green pyramid-shaped roof was beautifully renovated by Abderrahmane, the sultan of Morroco in 1869.
During this period, the pavilion was used as a summer house by the sultan, but it was also at times used as a marshal station.
What to See in Menara Gardens
Apart from the spectacular gardens and the wonderfully charming pavilion, you will encounter beautiful orchards and olive groves, and a huge artificial lake.
The lake was originally created for the purpose of irrigating the gardens, as well as the orchards and olive groves. The way in which the lake is replenished, is in itself very impressive, in that a 700-year-old hydraulic system, along with a complex network of underground channels, brings water to the lake from the Atlas Mountains roughly 30km away.
On a calm day, which is most days, visitors can enjoy fantastic panoramic views from side of the lake opposite to the pavilion.
From this position, you can see the pavilion’s reflection on the mirror-like water, and looking up from the water you see the pavilion again a spectacular backdrop, the snow-cover peaks of the Atlas Mountains.
It really is a remarkable site, and the peace and serenity tend to make it an even more remarkable sight.
Despite Menara Gardens being such a peaceful and tranquil place, don’t expect to find the area deserted. In fact, it can get quite busy, especially on weekends and public holidays.
According to some folklore tales, Abderrahmane, the sultan who used to live in the pavilion during the summer months, would often invite certain guests who he would then seduce over dinner, and when he was finished with them, he would have thrown into Menara’s reflections pools where they would then be left to drown.
Today, rather than seeing people taking a dip in the lake’s cool water, you are more likely to stumble across young couples looking for a little romance away from prying eyes, or families enjoying a picnic in the beautifully renovated pavilion.
Entrance to Menara Gardens is free, but if you wish to enjoy a picnic inside the pavilion, then to pay a fee which is equivalent to around 5 to 6 US$.
Visiting Menara Gardens
If you have visited Majorelle Gardens and you are expecting to see something similar and equally as stunning when you visit Menara Gardens, there is a strong possibility that you may be somewhat disappointed.
This is not because the site isn’t nice, but only because the two botanical gardens are very different to each other.
In a sense, one could say that Majorelle Gardens are a typical tourist attraction, while Menara Gardens are more the sort of place when locals go to in order to escape life in the city.
Also, if you are an independent traveler, getting to the site can be a bit of a hassle.
On the other hand, if you have booked one of our Morocco tour packages, or one of our Egypt and Morocco tours which include Menara Garden in the itinerary, then transport to and from the gardens will already be included, in which Menara Gardens would be well worth visiting.