Explore: Jardin Majorelle

July 26th 2023 in Explore
Explore: Jardin Majorelle

Jardin Majorelle

Yves Saint Laurent, a renowned French fashion designer, and his partner, Pierre Bergé, purchased Jardin Majorelle in 1980 to preserve the vision of its original owner, Jacques Majorelle, a French landscape painter, and keep it open to the public. Established in 1924, this garden boasts a psychedelic desert mirage with over 300 plant species from five continents. The garden’s centrepiece is Majorelle’s electric-blue art deco studio, which houses the Musée Berbère, exhibiting some 600 artefacts that showcase the rich panorama of Morocco’s indigenous inhabitants.

Over the years, this site has become increasingly popular and is now ranked Morocco’s most visited tourist attraction, attracting around 900,000 visitors annually. Though it’s no longer the peaceful oasis it was a decade ago, it still exudes stle and sophistication, with magical gardens, art deco architecture, and an excellent museum. The YSL Foundation expanded the gardens in December 2018 to accommodate the enormous number of visitors by opening up the section containing Villa Oasis, where Bergé lived until he died in 2017.

Jardin Majorelle also features a pretty courtyard cafe, a small book and photography shop, and a chic boutique that sells Majorelle blue slippers, textiles, and Amazigh-inspired jewellery influenced by YSL designs. Visitors with disabilities or those with strollers can easily access all areas of Jardin Majorelle.

Since the line to get into Jardin Majorelle can be long, planning ahead is advisable to save time.

Tickets for Jardin Majorelle

If you want to visit Jardin Majorelle, the most popular tourist attraction in Morocco, be prepared for potentially long lines. During peak season, you may have to wait anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour to get in. However, arriving before 10am or at the opening time of 8am will increase your chances of immediate entry. To save time, purchasing tickets online is highly recommended. If you visit between Friday and Monday, your ticket will include entry to the Villa Oasis gardens, a must-see highlight. It's also worth paying the extra Dh30 ($3.35) to see the Musée Berbère. For the best lighting, photographers should visit in the afternoon. If you have time, consider visiting the Musée Yves Saint Laurent next door, as combined tickets for both attractions are available. Keep in mind that you'll likely need most of the day to fully experience both places.

History of Jardin Majorelle

In 1923, Majorelle decided to settle in Marrakesh and purchased a 4-acre palm grove on the outskirts of the medina, which had poplar trees growing on it. Hence its original name, “Bou Saf Saf”, meaning “the poplars” in Arabic. The first house was Moorish in stle and had a traditional adobe tower. Later on, after enlarging the plot to nearly 10 acres, Majorelle hired French architect Paul Sinoir to design an art deco villa and studio in 1931.

The famous building now home to the Musée Berbère was Majorelle’s workshop and studio. The main house, which Majorelle inhabited, followed by Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé, was renamed Villa Oasis by YSL. It remained a private residence until Bergé passed away in 2017.

Who was Jacques Majorelle?

The gardens of Marrakesh, famous for being the former residence of Yves Saint Laurent, were gifted by Jacques Majorelle (1886-1962). Majorelle, a French painter from Nancy, was passionate about plants and animals, partly influenced by his exposure to organic motifs in the art nouveau movement. He arrived in Morocco in 1917 and was instantly captivated by the colourful environment and lively atmosphere of Marrakesh, which also fascinated YSL many years later.

Majorelle’s Orientalist paintings of North Africa, especially Morocco, gained much attention, and some of his work is featured on 1920s travel posters sold around the medina. The cobalt blue of the Jardin Majorelle’s buildings is a unique feature conceptualised by Majorelle himself, inspired by the vibrant Moroccan skies, traditional Moroccan tiles, and the striking blue veils worn by the Tuareg people in the southern Sahara. This colour was named “Majorelle Blue” and was even trademarked.

Plants in Jardin Majorelle

The gardens contain over 300 plant species from five continents, which Jacques Majorelle collected during his extensive travels over many years. They were first opened to the public in 1947 but were abandoned after his death. Later, Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé stepped in to save them from property developers.

Whether or not you are a plant enthusiast, Jardin Majorelle is a beautiful place to explore. Aspiring botanists will be especially delighted. The gardens have helpful signage with illustrations to help visitors identify different plants, ranging from Mexican agave to Chinese windmills and North African date palms. However, it would be more useful if both the standard and scientific names were labelled.

The Jardin Majorelle boasts majestic bamboo groves that tower like desert skyscrapers, bathed in the warm glow of the sun’s rays. While these groves are well-known and appreciated, visitors may be surprised to find significant graffiti. Sadly, many tourists have expressed their fondness for the gardens by carelessly carving their initials into the bamboo and some of the giant succulents. This environmental vandalism detracts from the gardens’ beauty and harms the plants themselves. As a result, carving into the plants is strictly prohibited.

Musée Berbère

The Musée Berbère is located in Majorelle's electric-blue art deco studio and is home to an impressive display of over 600 artefacts, including wood and metalwork, textiles, and traditional costumes from various regions of Morocco. The museum's highlight is the stunning mirrored chamber showcasing a collection of intricately designed, filigreed, and enamelled jewellery. The museum provides a fascinating insight into the rich history of Morocco's indigenous inhabitants.

Villa Oasis Gardens

The Villa Oasis Gardens opened in December 2018, offering a pathway adorned with bright bougainvillaea. The gardens are distinct from the central park and are considered more luxurious and captivating. The residence is designed in an Oriental stle and is larger than the studio. The facade of the building is a mix of Marrakesh's terracotta red, Majorelle's electric blue and Islamic green, with a tiled pyramid roof. The central garden boasts bamboo groves, succulents, cacti, mature palms, and a series of water features filled with koi carp, noisy frogs, and lily pads. The most prominent water feature surrounds a white-pillared pavilion, providing a calming atmosphere. Unfortunately, the Villa Oasis house is not open to the general public, and only exclusive tours are allowed for high-end hotels. The salon is Moroccan craftsmanship, with elaborately painted cedarwood, magnificent zellige (colourful geometric tilework), and museum-quality art deco furniture.

Yves Saint Laurent Memorial

The memorial in the garden is a beloved location, situated at the back wall on the opposite end of the park from the entrance/exit. Despite the presence of photographers and Instagrammers, the area is profoundly moving. The memorial is an ancient Roman pillar discovered by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé on a Tangier beach. After Bergé's passing in Provence, France, in 2017, he was added to the memorial as Yves Saint Laurent's business and life partner.

Where to stay near Jardin Majorelle

Jardin Majorelle is in the Ville Nouvelle neighbourhood of Marrakesh, known for its modern facilities. While hotels in the medina offer a more atmospheric stay, those in the Ville Nouvelle and Gueliz area provide a more contemporary experience. This neighbourhood features international hotels that cater to the package-holiday market. Although staying here may be less economical, most hotels have on-site bars and bigger pools than those in the medina.

Where to eat near Jardin Majorelle

Café Majorelle is located inside the gardens and is a charming place to enjoy tea or cake. It is situated in the former servants' quarters. A few steps away from the entrance of Jardin Majorelle, MyKawa serves salads, sandwiches, and Moroccan breakfasts with a Mediterranean twist.

How to get to Jardin Majorelle

You can take Bus No. 12 from Bab Doukkala to reach Jardin Majorelle. Alternatively, it's only a 10-minute walk from Bab Doukkala if you prefer to stroll. Head up Avenue Moulay Abdullah and turn right onto Ave Yacoub El Mansour. However, be cautious of taxi drivers around Jardin Majorelle as they are known to overcharge. It's best to walk away and hail a taxi from the main road instead.