“A visit to Marrakech was a great shock to me. This city taught me colour” – Yves Saint Laurent
The gardens were just around the corner now and it was hot in the sunshine as we stood in line for our tickets and then went inside through the gates.
The garden was designed and laid out in the 1920s by the French painter Jacques Majorelle who created marble pools, raised pathways, banana trees, groves of tall bamboo, coconut palms and bougainvillea but first of all we followed a path through species of cacti carefully collected from all over the world.
The path led to a lily pond that reminded me of Monet’s garden at Giverny in France and which stood in front of a house, a museum now but closed today during refurbishment, which is painted a unique shade of blue.
This seemed odd, it was in contrast to every other building in Marrakech and I wondered how the painter had managed to get around the crimson decree which specifies that everywhere must be red. The blue is called Majorelle and is made from pigment found only in the Moroccan soil and he must have been especially fond of it because as well as the house the garden was full of large pots all painted predominantly in this colour and contrasting nicely with others in orange, yellow, red and green.
Majorelle, it turns out wasn’t an especially great artist and his garden, rather than his paintings, was his masterpiece. It is composed and coloured like a work of art. As well as the pots, water is an important feature and there are water filled channels, lily ponds with reflections of the towering palm trees and bubbling fountains.
He was an avid plant collector but after he died in 1962 the house was left empty and the garden abandoned lay for nearly twenty years. Eventually it was threatened with demolition which is a reminder that sometimes what we create in our life times is only temporary. After a long period of neglect the garden was then taken over, saved and restored by the fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent.
As we wandered along the meandering paths the blue sky suddenly and without warning gave way to grey cloud and within seconds we were in the middle of a heavy rain shower and we had to take cover in a café where there was shelter under the leaves of the banana plants planted around the perimeter.
It took about twenty minutes for the heavy rain to slow down and before we could leave the shelter and then as the rain eased off we returned to the gardens which somehow managed to look even better now with the shiny wet pavements catching shimmering reflections of the brightly coloured pots.
There was a shop of course where I was chastised for taking a picture of an attractive corner and the assistant stood over me and insisted I delete it from the camera. I fooled her by not following the procedure all the way through but she was satisfied that it was gone and she let me go without calling the photography police.
The path took us around the blue house with its bright yellow windows and strategically placed pots, through tall pergolas where exotic climbing plants raced each other to the top of the poles, past ponds full of goldfish and terrapins and through the bamboo swaying in the breeze as though in a hypnotic trance. A second wave of rain passed over and we had to shelter next to the memorial to Yves Saint Laurent but it passed over quite quickly and we were able to continue the visit as rain drops splashed us as they dripped from the overhanging leaves.
On balance we would have preferred to have visited the garden without the rain but I suppose the plants all enjoyed the drenching.
When we had completed the walk around the garden and Kim was finally satisfied with her collection of pictures of the pots we left and started to walk back the way we had came. We hadn’t got very far however when it started to rain again and this time it was really unpleasant. It came in at an angle that got underneath our umbrellas, it had turned quite cool and the sky was grey and horrible in all directions.
We still had a few hours left before the flight home and we didn’t want to walk around all day in this but then as Kim moaned and Margaret complained about the plan to walk to the railway station Mike and I could see some better weather in the north so at a busy crossroads we found a café where we sat and sheltered and thankfully watched the weather, and the girl’s moods, improve as the pavements quickly dried as the sky turned blue and the temperature began to rise.