Marrakech, Morocco: In Living Color

Jardin Majorelle

I was curious to see the garden associated with the Yves Saint Laurent name, the famous French designer. But when I entered the garden, I did not see what I expected to see; no rows of flowers in repeated patterns or flowers in exuberant colors. Instead, I walked into a shady area surrounded by towering bamboo trees. Streaks of light passed through the bamboo trees and reflected on the terracotta courtyard. I stepped into a square gazebo where people pose for pictures with the stream, lined with bamboo trees in the background. It had an Asian (Zen) feel, with the water in the stream and the bamboo creating an elegant rhyme. Except that, it did not have that subtle and gray color of a Zen garden. I wandered under huge trees and amidst exotic plants wondering about the design that made it so elegant and mysterious.

The garden reminded me of our backyard when I was a kid where my father planted everything that he could find from the wild, including bamboos and ferns.  I learned later that the Garden of Majorelle consisted of 300 plant species from different parts of the continents.

After passing Yves Saint Laurent’s memorial plot, I continued to stroll along rows of exotic plants until I reached the pool filled with water lilies and lotus flowers, the tall palm trees reflected on the water. Across the big pool was a small rectangular pond with bamboo bushes in the middle. With the water lilies, lotus flowers and bamboos, you could almost see a Zen garden, but the pots and the edge of the pools and ponds painted in electric blue and yellow, very bright colors that gave it a magnetic look. In addition, the precise placement of the trees and the cactus plants in different forms gave the garden a mysterious feel.

Designed by Jacques Majorelle, the landscape, known today as the Majorelle Garden, began in 1924 and opened to the public in 1947. Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Berge acquired and renovated the property and gave it to the Pierre Berge and Yves Saint Laurent Foundation in Paris to ensure its continuing existence.[i]

My visit to the Majorelle Garden ended at the Berber Art Museum, an Art Deco building with a Moorish charm, painted in electric blue. The museum displayed artifacts from Morocco’s indigenous inhabitants, including wood, leather and metals, textile, musical instruments and traditional clothes. The most unexpected surprise inside the museum was the mirrored, midnight black chamber with a display of a sumptuous collection of filigreed jewels that reflect into infinity beneath a starry sky – a touch of Yves Saint Laurent.



All photos by the author
[i] From the Jardin Majorelle visitor pamphlet



The Banaue Rice Terraces: A Living Cultural Landscape

NEPAL: Durbar Square Before the Earthquake

The Amazon, Part 3: The Tree Killer Tree