Travel: An Oasis in the Heart of the City

IT WASN'T meant to be like this. It was meant to emerge in a blaze of hot sunshine, dusty and musky, pampering the senses with colour and perfume. Palm trees still in the dry air. The hot sensation of something exotic.

But that morning the Jardin Majorelle in Marrakesh, owned by the couturier Yves Saint Laurent, appeared green, wet and lush. Rain dripped off the vast green spiky leaves and clung to the spines of the bamboo. Along the winding terracotta path that led deeper and deeper into the well-tamed jungle, the puddles shone with the sun's reflection.

Birds called strange songs through the damp air. The three primary colours of the garden were not subdued by the watery sunshine - the rich green of the palms and cacti, the warm red of the brick path and the brilliant cobalt blue of the stone arches, pergolas and the small museum, contrasted sharply with the pink buildings of Marrakesh. A scraggy cat snoozed in the sun on one of the green wooden benches, and there was a stillness hard to imagine possible in such a bustling city.

In the heart of the ville nouveau, the only clue to the presence of this hidden urban oasis is only noticeable by the number of petits taxis and calleches (horse-drawn carriages) outside the gate. Once inside, apart from birdsong, water is the principle sound, trickling from the fountains and flowing along the waterways that thread through the garden. A long rectangular pond, edged in brillant blue, leads to a large fishpond, itself overlooked by a blue pergola trailing greenery. Turtles and goldfish swim in the green water beneath a perfect reflection of scudding clouds and wheeling storks.

At the back of the garden is a small museum, set up by Yves Saint Laurent. It is home to a fine collection of local carpets, bridal belts, carved wooden gates, painted woodwork, Berber pottery and Venetian glass. The last room contains the designer's own paintings of Marrakesh and the surrounding area.

Although now owned and maintained by Saint Laurent, the garden was devised over a period of 40 years by the French painter Jacques Majorelle. From 1922 to 1962, Majorelle lived in what is now the museum and built up the surrounding garden.

The place is an extraordinary reflection of his talent - notably his use of colour and texture. Although based on classic French garden design, with orderly paths and plants strictly assigned to their own beds, the garden does not scream good taste but feels like an enchanting botanical installation.It feels more like a work of art than an act of horticulture. Many gardens might aim to achieve this effect, but few could do it as well.

Saint Laurent must take credit for maintaining this mini-masterpiece for more than 30 years, and understanding the original owner's vision so well.

The colours, the sounds and the vistas that you find at every turn make for an extraordinarily sensuous experience, and you depart with the senses filled, an experience more akin to leaving an art exhibition than a small garden.

The Jardin Majorelle is located north of Ave Yacoub el-Mansour in the ville nouveau. It is open daily from 8am-noon and 2pm-6pm (3pm-7pm in summer). Entrance costs 15dh (pounds 1) and a further 15dh for the museum

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £45,000

    £35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a solutions / s...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £45,000

    £18000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive is required t...

    Recruitment Genius: Test Development Engineer

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you inspired to bring new a...

    Recruitment Genius: Trainee Motor Engineer

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific