The Gardens of Marrakech, Morocco
The Gardens of Marrakech: The hustle and bustle of Marrakech is exciting, but can become overwhelming. One of the key secrets to enjoying an extended stay in the red city is to take short breaks in the city’s many gardens and parks.
8 GARDENS IN MARRAKECH:
Marrakech’s gardens will also provide you with moments to breathe and reconnect with nature after a trawling session in the stores and souks. Most gardens are free or only 10 dirhams, making it easy to sit in a park or garden for a short time and relax. If you need to escape the madness of the medina, head to one of these gardens to refresh your spirit.
1 – JARDIN MAJORELLE:
Jardin Majorelle is perhaps Marrakech’s most famous garden and certainly its most “selfish”. The space is a magnificent botanical garden of almost 1 hectare centered around a riad of Moorish influence in its architecture of bright blue and yellow. Stroll along shady lanes amid exotic plants and relax by peaceful streams with floating lilies and lotus flowers. The garden owes its name to a French expatriate artist – Jacque Majorelle – who designed the building (a riad-style structure) in the 1920s and 1930s. A small archaeological museum is located inside the gardens. It contains interesting insights into Islamic art and Berber culture. For a truly tranquil experience of the garden, it’s worth getting up early and visiting at 8 a.m. before the crowds arrive, or later in the afternoon after they’ve left.
2 – ANIMA GARDENS:
The Gardens of Marrakech: Jardins Anima is a newly opened garden designed by André Heller that is receiving well-deserved praise and attention for its imaginative and creative design. Nestled at the foot of the High Atlas mountains and in the Ourika valley, 27 km from Marrakech, this garden offers something completely different and is well worth the 30-minute drive out of town. As you wander through shady walkways and pavilions, with the High Atlas Mountains as a backdrop, you’ll encounter unusual character sculptures – weird and wonderful images by the award-winning artist and multimedia designer – that add a magical “wonderland” touch to the experience.
A museum designed by Carmen Wiederin is also an interesting stop, rotating exhibitions of paintings, photographs and objects constituting artists from around the world. Café Marocain Paul Bowles is located near the garden entrance and serves fresh fruit juices, tea and pastries. Try to avoid visiting during the midday heat and plan your visit for the afternoons with softer golden light.
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3 – BAHIA PALACE GARDENS:
Located in Marrakech’s ancient medina along the Mellah, the Jewish quarter, the Bahia Palace is an excellent example of Marrakech’s traditional palace-garden space. With an Andalusian feel and breathtaking displays of zelij mosaic and Moroccan architecture, it’s one of the must-visit sites for an old Marrakech palace.
The exact dates of construction are unknown, but historians and archaeologists agree that the building was already in use by 1859 and was completed in 1900. It was built in two different stages by Si Moussa and his son, making the layout and design slightly irregular and disjointed, which adds a sense of adventure and discovery as you wander through the different parts of the palace complex. The materials used to create the superb displays of zelij, ceramics and woodwork throughout the palace come from all over North Africa. It’s well worth visiting the palace with a guide who can tell you all about Morocco’s geography and history, pointing out where different parts of the materials were used in the original architecture.
4 – AGDAL GARDENS:
Perhaps the most important garden in Marrakech, the Agdal Gardens were built in the 12th century by the Almohad dynasty. Originally created as an orchard, the gardens cover an immense area of over 400 hectares. The name derives from an Amazigh word referring to a “walled meadow”, reflecting the lines of groves that make up the huge expanse of garden, including orange, lemon, fig, apricot and pomegranate trees… It’s worth saying that some visitors to the Agdal are a little disappointed. There is no “path” to follow on an interesting museum site, but the panoramic view over water and groves is sure to impress.
5 – KOUTOUBIA GARDENS:
These are the easiest and most convenient parks for a quick break in the medina. If Djemma El Fna becomes too much to handle, simply cross the road towards the Koutoubia Mosque and wander through the parks and fountains found behind the mosque. The cyber park is just a 2-minute walk from the Koutoubia and is also well worth exploring, offering a slightly modern sci-fi feel. Locals rest here all day and it’s an ideal place to sit under a real palm and read a book, or simply watch the world go by.
6 – EL BADI PALACE GARDENS:
The Gardens of Marrakech: A ruined former palace located just a short walk from Bahia, making the two sites easy to do together while exploring the Mellah. The site is a little dilapidated and is currently undergoing renovation. However, El Badi offers its own unique charm which, according to many people, makes them prefer El Badi Palace to Bahia. Commissioned by the Arab Saadian sultan Ahmad-al-Mansur and completed in 1593, the complex took 25 years to build and was constructed using the most expensive materials of the time, including gold and onyx. Stroll through the gardens and sunken pavilions and admire what is considered one of the finest examples of Saadian architecture in Morocco.
7 – PALM GROVE GARDENS:
A large palm grove in the northern suburbs of Marrakech, don’t expect a garden with an entrance, it’s simply – and rather surprisingly – a vast expanse of palm trees. Measuring 5 km long and covering 54 square km, the Palmeraie was once one of the largest palm groves in North Africa. Numerous hotels and restaurants are scattered throughout the oasis, such as the Palmeraie Golf Palace, although the ambience of the region can be experienced simply by driving the road that takes you into the heart of the palm trees.
Camels and guides sit at various points along the roadside, waiting for anyone wishing to take a camel ride into the oasis. There is an ancient legend that the palm grove was created from date seeds thrown on the ground by Arab warriors, but it was actually created in Almoravid times using a “qanat” network of underground irrigation channels, like the Menara and Agdal. If you walk beside it, you can still see traces of the old irrigation system, which is now dry.
8 – MENARA GARDENS:
The Menara Garden is located west of Marrakech, at the gateway to the Atlas Mountains, and is known as the little sister of the Agdal. Also established by the Almohad dynasty, the name Menara comes from the pavilion with its small green pyramid roof (menzeh), which translates as lighthouse. The meaning of the translation does not refer to any history of having a practical lighthouse purpose, but reflects a religious significance for the building. The menara is very similar to that of the Agdal, with a large basin that also served to irrigate the surrounding groves and orchards using a highly sophisticated network of underground canals.