Majorelle Garden, Marrakech

Jacques Majorelle's villa/studio, now the Berber Museum

Jacques Majorelle’s villa/studio, now the Berber Museum

Beginning in the 1920s and for nearly 40 years thereafter, French ex-pat painter Jacques Majorelle lovingly designed and planted his exotic garden on the fringes of central Marrakech. Over the years, his original 4 acres became 10 acres, but the high cost of maintenance forced him to sell off pieces of the property one by one until 1961, when he sold the last, 2-acre parcel.

Fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé were instantly enchanted by the garden when they first visited in 1966. They bought it in 1980 after hearing it was to be destroyed.

Inside the garden, the dusty, blazing intensity of Marrakech seems a world away. Only 2 acres, the garden feels intimate, even secret. Benches hide among the palm and bamboo groves. Babbling fountains sooth and refresh.

Jacques Majorelle painted structural elements in bold primary colors, against which the garden greenery really pops. The distinct blue used on his 1931 Cubist villa/studio and throughout the garden is now known as Majorelle Blue. In 2011 a very good little Berber Museum opened in the villa displaying items from the collection of YSL and Pierre Bergé.

Also in the garden, the Galerie Love displays the Love posters designed by Yves Saint Laurent, Boutique Majorelle sells pricey but quality gifts and mementos, and a shady café serves breakfast and lunch (but is best for a cold drink).

An hour is more than enough time to stroll the gardens and the small museum, but I’ve heard tales of hours lost in this leafy sanctuary.

The Majorelle Garden is located in Marrakech’s Ville Nouvelle, about a 5-minute drive or a 20-minute walk from the medina.

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