The Jardin Majorelle (Majorelle Garden) in Marrakesh, Morocco, is a wonderland of exotic colors, sounds, and smells like few other places in the world. Now one of the most visited sites in Morocco, it was once nearly destroyed.
In about 1920, Jacques Majorelle, a French painter, arrived in Marrakesh, long known as the “Red City” because of its red sandstone buildings and walls. In 1923, Majorelle bought a four-acre plot of land in Marrakesh and began building a garden. Until his death in Paris in 1962, Majorelle brought to his garden 135 plant species from five continents. He painted Moroccan scenes in a studio on the ground floor of a Cubist villa he built in the garden in the 1930s. Majorelle painted the villa and other structures of his garden in bright primary colors, the most common a vibrant shade of blue known as Bleu Majorettle that reminded him of the nearby Atlas Mountains.
Through a combination of bad luck, including a divorce and a serious automobile accident, and exuberant spending, Majorelle was forced to sell his garden in 1961. When French designer Yves Saint-Laurent and his partner discovered Majorelle’s garden on a visit to Marrakesh in 1966, they immediately became fans even though it was deteriorating. They added irrigation to the site and brought in another 165 plant species. When Saint-Laurent died in 2008, his ashes were scattered in the garden. Now operated by a charitable foundation, the Jardin Majorelle, with its dreamlike character, includes a museum dedicated to the Berbers, who established Marrakesh in 1062 and made it the capital of an empire that once stretched 1900 miles from northwestern Africa to southern Spain. The next time you are in Marrakesh, stop by the Jardin Majorelle.