When you're going to a garden that was once owned by Yves Saint Laurent, you know it's going to be good. This 12-acre botanical garden is a place of fantasy. Designed by French artist Jacques Majorelle then later owned by fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent (like we need an introduction as to who that is!), Jardin Majorelle is probably one of the most whimsical, intriguing and enchanting gardens I've ever been to.
The Medina of Marrakesh is often referred to as the pink city, the rose city, the red city, or even the ochre city, thanks to the deep orangey, yellowish, warm reddish hue of its walls (which to me, are more pink than anything else! A dark, dusky rose, actually). But in the Jardin Majorelle, it's a world of green and blue, glorious blue. Beautiful bright, vivid cobalt peppered with splashes of orange and yellow, and plenty of greenery. And this is no ordinary greenery either - while I love a weeping willow as much as the next dreamer (if you've never relaxed under the shade of one with a book in hand, preferably by a body of water of some sort, you must) the greenery here is weird and wonderful and just downright fun.
The strange cacti of every variety - most of which I had never seen before - and the sedeveria (beautiful succulents that resemble lush, thick and shiny-leaved roses) were the plants that I loved the most here. I know little about plants, but I do know that I want sedeveria (which I have recently discovered are a hybrid cross between Sedum and Echeveria, both of which I'd never heard of before) in my future garden, tucked into pretty, colourful pots.
The garden is one of the more popular tourist sites in Marrakesh. Located on Rue Yves Saint Laurent (yes, that's Yves Saint Laurent street), it apparently took about 40 years to create. Ambling around the garden for long enough is sure to leave you in a dreamy state buzzing with creativity (or it did for me, anyway): Take refuge in a cool, shady walkway, or stop for a rest next to the soothing sounds of a trickling pool of water. Yves Saint Laurent's ashes are reportedly buried next to one such pool, with signs around the garden marking out the point of his memorial. It seems that many visitors also want to make their mark here, with their initials carved into the thick, shiny stalks of what looked like green bamboo, and tall, towering cacti. There's just something about these strange plants that look like they don't belong in the local climate and terrain juxtaposed against the Moroccan-influenced architecture, all knitted together with the splashes of cobalt everywhere, that make you feel a bit like you've stepped into another dimension.
Eventually, we found our way to the cafe. A delightful nook of peace and quiet (not that it isn't peaceful and quiet elsewhere in the garden), it was deeply pleasant to while away some time enjoying a hot, sweet Moroccan tea with a buttery pastry or two (and in my case, a Pastilla as well - I couldn't resist) while the birds chirped and fluttered atop us. Yes, as with most tourist-attracting hotspots, it is a little more expensive than it needs to be but if you're just popping in for a bit of refreshment and a nibble or two, it's not that bad and entirely worth it for the atmosphere alone (though the food, drinks and service were good too!).
After our pitstop, noses filled with the intoxicating sugary scent of flowers, and birdsong still trilling around us, we made our way to the Berber Museum located within the garden. When you buy your ticket to enter the grounds, you can pay for entrance to the museum as well as a combined package of sorts, and while the museum is quite small, it is charming and worth a visit in my opinion. I especially enjoyed seeing the various different Berber clothing and jewellery worn through the ages.
After days of the hectic hustle and bustle of the Medina, our trip to the Jardin Majorelle was a true oasis. Despite the fact that I had wanted to go primarily because Yves Saint Laurent is one of my absolute favourite fashion brands (yes, I know it's now been renamed Saint Laurent Paris, but it'll always be YSL to me), we wound up finding a place of beauty and tranquility that begged for us to spend hours in its lush, soothing surrounds. Next time, I'm taking a book with me.
Photographs: Yi-Hwa Hanna