Without doubt one of the most photographed places in Marrakech is the Jardin Majorelle. Achieving this is not easy because this city in Morocco is full of colorful places like the Bahia Palace perfect for photography lovers. Those looking for photos of Marrakech on Instagram will find thousands of photos taken in these gardens where colors and plants serve as the best backgrounds.
Jardin Majorelle is one of the few attractions that is not located in the Medina, but in Guéliz, which is a European neighborhood created by the French during the time of the protectorate. I bought a SIM card (they are very cheap with data) and had access to Google Maps, so I decided to walk half an hour from my hotel Riad Chorfa to the gardens.
The gardens open at 8 a.m. so I decided to have breakfast early and walk through the Medina since it is quite quiet in the morning. The merchants are just setting up their stalls, so there aren’t as many people as at other times and you can walk calmly. I saw areas of Marrakech that I did not know, I even went through a market where you can buy fruits and vegetables grown in Morocco. The strawberries and oranges looked delicious.
The last part of my journey had more car traffic, since there are very few in the Medina. You can take a taxi to go to Jardin Majorelle or also a horse carriage that is very common for tourists. You must always negotiate prices.
It is advisable to go to the gardens when they open or when they close. The lines to enter are eternal as they are one of the most popular tourist attractions in Morocco. They receive 700,000 visitors per year. When I went at 9 a.m. there was no line but when I left the garden there were more than 200 people waiting.
Spend a morning at the Jardin Majorelle
In the typical Moroccan style, when people see the red-orange walls that surround the site, they would never imagine what is inside. More than 300 plants from five continents grow in the Jardin Majorelle and the height of palms and cacti is impressive.
Because of the amount of plants, the weather is more pleasant and there is less heat than in the rest of Marrakesh. This makes people want to spend time sitting on benches, looking at water sources and vegetation. Inside the Majorelle Garden there is a small memorial to the life of Yves Saint Laurent that was designed around a Roman pillar that was brought from Tangier.
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The collection includes pieces of wood, leather and metals, as well as textiles, musical instruments, religious attire, and an exhibition of the various traditional regional costumes. You can also find chiselled, filigree and enameled jewelry. This museum was originally the studio of the painter Jacques Majorelle and has a collection of his works.
One of the rooms that I liked the most is the one that has some posters designed by Yves including his famous collection of “LOVE” that changed every year. In the center there is a small biography of the designer.
Visiting the new Yves Saint Laurent museum is very expensive, personally I didn’t think it was worth it for the price they charge. This museum opened in October 2017.
Jacques Majorelle was a lover of gardening and Islamic culture
Jacques Majorelle was born in Nancy, France in 1886. His father was Louis Majorelle, a famous furniture designer. Therefore, Jacques grew up in a world of art, when Art Nouveau was at its peak. This movement was inspired by ways found in nature and Majorelle grew up loving the flora and fauna.
He visited Egypt and stayed there for 4 years. He became a lover of culture and the Islamic world. In 1917 he became ill and was sent to Morocco to recover. He arrived in Casablanca at the house of a general friend of the father, but decided better to go to Marrakech. He fell in love with this city full of colors and markets; and decided to use it as a base to explore Africa.
Two years later, already married to his wife Andrée Longueville, he moved permanently to Marrakesh and in 1923 decided to buy 1.6 hectares located on the edge of a palm grove. In 1931 he asked the architect Paul Sinoir to design a cubist-style villa for the property that was already 4 hectares. He spent 40 years planting his garden that began to be known as Jardin Majorelle. In 1947 he opened the garden to the public to be able to pay the high costs of maintaining it.
The painter divorces in the fifties. Then he suffers from a car accident that ends up costing his leg. Due to economic problems, he is forced to sell the house and the garden is neglected. In 1980, Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent bought the property, saving it from being destroyed to build a hotel and a residential project. The couple had discovered the garden during their first visit, when they went almost every day. It was open to the public but there were very few people who went.
Marojelle creates a unique shade of blue
Majorelle was a painter inspired by the East, in his time in Morocco he made expeditions to villages and souks that gave him inspiration for his works. Everyday life in Morocco full of colors, using metals including gold and silver were representative in his works. After 1930 he began to paint naked black women and also designed posters to promote Morocco as a tourist destination.
Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé fall in love with Morocco
Yves Saint Laurent was born in Oran, Alegria. Like Majorelle, he spent his entire life between France and North Africa. Yves and his partner Pierre arrived in Marrakech for the first time in 1966 and never left. The city influenced the designer. Fashion, gardens, colors and local crafts made their designs evolve.
“Marrakech taught me the color; before Marrakech, everything was black, ”said Yves Saint Laurent.
The designer had a 40-year career, from 1962 until he retired in 2002. Yves dies on June 1, 2008 in Paris, but his ashes were watered in the rose garden at Villa Oasis, the private house next to the Jardin Majorelle.
Since 2011 the property has been managed by the Majorelle Foundation to guarantee the preservation of the garden, which is currently maintained by 20 workers. Pierre Bergé was the director of the foundation until his death in September, 2017.
A museum to commemorate the designer’s life in Marrakech
In 2010, an exhibition of the designer’s pieces was made in the Berber museum and was a success. It made sense to build a museum and luckily, the piece of land next to Villa Oasis went on sale. Pierre Bergé bought the land and asked the architects of Studio KO to make a modern and at the same time very Moroccan design. They designed the building as one would cut the fabric for a suit, with curves and lines, using drawings made by Yves.
Seven years later the terra cotta museum that cost $17 million opens. Pierre Bergé saw the museum completed, but died just before it opened to the public. At the same time he opened another museum in the atelier of Yves Saint Laurent in Paris. So people can see the life and work of the designer in their two homes.
The museum has about 1,000 pieces of the designer. Two hundred outfits from a couture archive were sent from Paris. You are not allowed to take photos in most of the museum.
I really liked the bookstore which was inspired by the design of the designer’s boutiques. They sell fashion and Moroccan books, jewelry, accessories, souvenirs and postcards from the LOVE collection. Of course I bought the postcard of the year of my birth.