As you turn onto the Rue Yves Saint Laurent in Marrakech, Morocco, you hear many different languages coming from the line of tourists waiting to enter the Jardin Majorelle. The famous garden was started in 1923 when artist Jacques Majorelle bought a four-acre plot of land on the border of a palm grove. Eventually Majorelle purchased adjacent land, growing the garden to ten acres.
Map of the current garden
Jacques Majorelle, 1940
In 1931 architect Paul Sinoir was commissioned to design a Cubist Villa for Majorelle. The villa’s ground floor became his painting workshop, and the first floor became his studio. Two years later an Arab-inspired pergola and balconies were added to the Villa. The Villa is painted in a bold “Majorelle Blue” creating a stunning contrast to the surrounding green plants. In 1947, high maintenance costs forced the artist to open the garden to the public for an entrance fee.
Villa Oasis, 2017
The garden’s hundreds of species of trees and plants are from all five continents and were planted over the span of forty years. They include cacti, palm trees, bamboo, coconut palms, thujas, weeping willows, carob trees, jasmine, agaves, white water lilies, datura, cypress, bougainvilleas, and ferns. Majorelle had strategically planted the species based off their needs for sunlight and water, around a long central basin and curving walkways.
Painted curb and colorful tile
Majorelle blue square fountain
Bright primary colors are painted on entrance gates, plant pots, walls and pergolas, adding more colors to the varied green palette of the vegetation. Birds chirping, leaves rustling in the wind, and the sound of streams and fountains truly turns the garden into an oasis. You forget you are in bustling Marrakech as the lush foliage and stunning colors draw you into paradise.
Walkway in the garden
Pavilion surrounded by bamboo
After his divorce and a serious car accident, Jacques Majorelle sold a part of the garden and villa-studio. In 1980 the garden was almost turned into a hotel complex but was saved by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé who purchased the land and began restoration. They aimed to "make the Jardin Majorelle become the most beautiful garden – by respecting the vision of Jacques Majorelle."
Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent at the gate of the garden
Fountain at the garden entrance
Restoration efforts included the installation of automatic irrigation systems and the addition of new plant species, increasing the total number of plants from 135 to 300. Yves Saint Laurent found limitless inspiration in Jardin Majorelle that he used in his fashion designs. When he passed away in 2008, Saint Laurent’s ashes were scattered in Majorelle’s rose garden and a memorial was built. In 2010 the street in front of the garden was renamed to Rue Yves Saint Laurent in his honor.
Yves Saint Laurent memorial with a Roman pillar from Tangier
After Saint Laurent’s passing, Bergé donated Jardin Majorelle and the Villa Oasis to a Paris foundation that holds both their names. Today the villa’s studio is a museum that houses Yves Saint Laurent’s and Pierre Bergé’s collections of Berber art. Of the numerous sites to see in Marrakech, this garden is unlike any other. It was worth the long wait in line.