Friday, October 7, 2011

Jardin Majorelle

Paradise, Moroccan style

Morocco includes large swathes of the Sahara Desert and 40+C temperatures in summer. Its Atlas Mountains are rocky, barren and windswept; and its history is wild and warlike and goes back many centuries. So when a tour guide in Marrakech suggests a visit to a garden, one wonders just what to expect. 
The Jardin Majorelle turned out to be a paradise: cool, quiet, beautiful. A cafe in a courtyard festooned with greenery swaying gently under soft water mist. Vividly coloured pots and architectural features; a small painted house; green and blue ceramic tiles; handily-placed benches inviting rest and contemplation. Inside the little house, a tiny and excellent museum of Berber history and culture. In the centre of the garden, a lily pond with goldfish and turtles. 
And in one quiet corner, a memorial to the French fashion designer Yves St Laurent. What’s the story here? The garden was established by the French-born painter Jacques Majorelle in the first half of the twentieth century, and he opened it to the public in 1947. Majorelle died in 1962, and the garden fell into disrepair, before being purchased and restored by Yves St Laurent and his partner Pierre BergĂ©. 

Majorelle was a noted collector of plants, but it is the garden’s design - the marriage of plants and architecture - that is most striking. That, and the peacefulness. I went back twice, and each time I visited I was reluctant to leave, and to exit again into the dusty, roaring, red streets of Modern Marrakech.

Your blogger slacking off in the jardin

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