If the hectic streets of Morocco big cities can seem stifling during the hottest hours of the day, many tourists and inhabitants looking for coolness find refuge in gardens.
Symbol of prosperity, their structures are representative of the wealth of the city. Palaces and riads were all built around gardens or patios, reflection of the architectural greatness and the place’s prestige.
Important part of the country’s heritage, they constitute a cultural legacy and are considered as a form of art, strictly speaking: the Majorelle garden in Marrakech, created by the eponymous painter, is, thanks to its color, its architecture and its vegetation, a true work of art.
But whether they are public or private, gardens are above all symbolic places for the city and its inhabitants. Associated with purity and plenitude, they represent the sacred world, the interiority. The fountains found there are considered as symbols of life and the walls that almost always surround them make them a representation of paradise.
Designed for rest and contemplation, unlike English gardens, we often find places to sit there. Designed to escape the urban bustle, these gardens offer a moment of relaxation and the shade they provide, as well as the fountains and waterways found there enable to block/balance the hot and arid climate of the region.
Traditionally structured in terraces in order to make the watering easier, this system also allows the highest and strongest plants to protect the weakest from the sun. Three levels are set up: water, flower plants and then trees, that form a permanent shade.
However, some gardens particularly stand out from others.
The Majorelle garden, evoked previously, attracts many tourists each year. Between Islamic and tropical garden, it was created in 1929 by the eponymous painter, who fell in love with the region and bought this land so as to build its studio. He planted more than 300 species and created, a few years later the famous Majorelle blue, which he painted the walls of his studio and garden, making it one of its most famous painting. Purchased at his death by Yves Saint-Laurent and his partner, who renovated it and made it one of his sources of inspiration for many of his collections. The painter’s studio was transformed into a Berber museum, still open to the public. When Yves Saint-Laurent died, his partner Pierre Bergé scattered his ashes in the rose garden and erected a memorial in his honor. With its fountains, ornamental lakes and large trees, it is an ideal place to stroll and its calm and relaxing atmosphere will allow you to cool down during the hottest hours of the day.
Built by a sultan in the 18th century and reopened to the public since 2011, the Jnan Sbil garden in Fez is the oldest garden of the city. Initially designed for princes and princesses before its first opening to the general public in 1917, it is placed under the king’s patronage since 2011. Located in the heart of the city, the park is divided between several themes. Strolling in its alleys shaded by a large variety of trees, between the small lake, the rivers and the square of Mediterranean flowers, will enable you to forget about the hustle and bustle of the city.
The garden of Oudayas, built on the city heights, at the foot of the Kasbah palace (home of the sultans of the time) overlooks Rabat. Formerly an ancient parade ground because of its defensive situation, you can stroll in its alleys ringed with flowers, contrasting with the walls and cannons of the time. Fitted out during the 1920s, this garden, also called the Andalusian garden of the Oudayas was highly influenced by the Spanish architecture and will charm you thanks to its profusion of typically Mediterranean bushes: lemon trees, orange trees, laurel trees and so on. At the end of your visit, do not forget to stop by the Moorish coffee, where you can have a break, while enjoying the view of the river, the Hassan tower, as well as Salé and its battlements.
The Lalla Hasna park, built around the famous Koutoubia mosque remains one of the best ways to admire its minaret, symbol of Marrakech. The inside of the mosque being a place of worship, it is therefore forbidden to the non-Muslims. You can walk there during the day to enjoy its coolness but also at night when the lightings installed for this purpose reveal some details of the minaret and the rose garden is illuminated.
Still in Marrakech, the secret garden is worth the visit. Located in the core of the medina, it is named after its spot: hidden behind high surrounding walls, it is impossible to guess what lies behind. It was abandoned when the caid that lived there died (allegedly poisoned), the palace and its gardens opened to the general public in 2016, after 8 years of renovations. After strolling through the two gardens (an exotic garden with plants coming from the 5 continents and an Islamic garden), you can sit at one of the coffee shops terraces and enjoy the smell released by the orange trees, lavender and other Mediterranean plants. The top of the tower is also accessible and offers an exceptional panorama covering the whole city up to the mountains of the Atlas.
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