Marrakech: Secret Doors and Secret Gardens

Home of YSL and Berger in Marrakech

The doorways of Marrakech are like entryways to Narnia. Latticed archways and studded posts hide tranquil courtyards with twittering birds. In Marrakech, secret doors lead to artist’s workshops and secret gardens are where legends choose to rest.

Marrakech

Marrakech medina

“You’ll get lost in the medina,” were the words I heard from anyone who had ever been to Marrakech before. And we did. It didn’t take very long; we didn’t even notice it happening. Only when we had finished wandering, bartering and browsing the stalls and wanted to be somewhere specific did we realise we had a problem. The alleyway we followed, assuming it would take us back to the square that was our meeting point, did indeed take us to a square, but it wasn’t ours. There was no alternative but to retrace our footsteps, back past the goods we had pretended we didn’t want, revisiting the vendors who had tried to charm us with their calls. We weaved our way around in a giant circle until, finally, things started to look a little familiar.

Marrakech Medina

Marrakech medina

It baffles me how anyone finds an address in this warren. The wooden doors from Narnia and their intricate latticed archways fascinated me, but it was so hard to recognise one from the rest. Luckily our hosts-cum-guides from the Fellah Hotel knew where they were going. They took us to the door of London-based Moroccan artist Hassan Hajjaj. Behind his terracotta walls and wooden door hid a rainbow-coloured Riad. The traditional Moroccan building was his home, gallery and studio combined. On the walls hung his work – photographs of local people draped in western clothes and framed in Moroccan products. Hassan’s Riad reflects his art; a combination of local culture and western influence, contemporary and commercial mixed with traditional culture. He takes a playful poke at both. Hassan’s home and his artwork are just one of the secrets the medina holds.

Work by Hassan Hajjaj

Marrakech’s famous garden, Le Jardin Majorelle, also holds a secret. Le Jardin was the retreat and studio of French artist Jacques Majorelle. When he passed away the property and gardens were bought and restored by fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé. The main gardens and Majorelle’s former studio are now open to the public. The verdant green space is sprinkled with plant pots in Yves Klein blue. Cactus plants live next to lily ponds; bougainvillea, coconut, banana and palm trees blend into one another. The grounds are ordered and tranquil, a world away from the chaotic city outside. Majorelle’s old studio is now a museum, the four small but perfectly arranged rooms explaining Berber culture and costume since 2011 (it was an Islamic art museum prior).

Le Jardin Majorelle

But there is more to this garden than most visitors will see, for the property expands further than what is open to the public. We were kindly invited through another secret door to the private home and secret garden of Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent. The elegant building and tranquil grounds we found on the other side are still home to Bergé today, and when Yves Saint Laurent passed away he wanted a part of himself to remain here too – his ashes are sprinkled besides a fountain in the garden.

Home of YSL and Berger in Marrakech

Home of YSL and Berger in Marrakech

We had lunch in a garden too. Le Jardin is a restaurant in the centre of a 17th century mansion, which has been restored by local entrepreneur Kamal Laftimi. Through a little door near Terrasse des Épices, we found a courtyard of twittering birds and turtles, who were roaming the floor. At Le Jardin traditional tagine is served up alongside modern fashion – on the upper level a pop-up shop hosts the work of a local designer.

This was my first taste of Marrakech and this introduction to its art, archways and courtyards has left me wanting much more. With the help of my local guides I learnt that whilst there is confusion, bargains and bartering to be found in the alleyways of Marrakech, there is much peace and beauty hidden in its secret gardens.

I visited Marrakech upon invitation from the Fellah Hotel, a new property nestled between Marrakech and the Atlas Mountains. We flew direct to Marrakech with Easyjet. For more information on things to do in Morocco check out visitmorocco.com and for a guide to shopping in Marrakech click here.

16 Comments

  1. Reply

    Julia

    October 1, 2013

    Can’t wait to visit Marrakech! Getting lost in the medina seems like it may lead to interesting and exciting things 🙂

    • Reply

      Jayne

      October 1, 2013

      I can’t wait to go back! It was everything I hoped and more. You will love it 🙂

  2. Reply

    PurpleTravelKate

    October 2, 2013

    Looks absolutely blissful! Looking forward to discovering it myself asap 🙂

  3. Reply

    Andi of My Beautiful Adventures

    October 2, 2013

    Beautiful pics! One of my fave cities in the world!!!!

    • Reply

      Jayne Gorman

      September 12, 2014

      And mine too now 🙂

  4. Reply

    Robert

    November 7, 2013

    Took me straight back….went onto the Ryan Air site to see about a ticket thinking it might make a good detox after chrimbo ?

    • Reply

      Jayne

      November 7, 2013

      And maybe some much needed sunshine too!

  5. Reply

    Clare

    September 25, 2014

    Morocco looks beautiful!, just discovered your blog today, and it looks awesome.
    I have just started out, I would appreciate it so much if you could give me a look!
    http://purple-jelly.blogspot.co.uk/

    Thanks so much!

    • Reply

      Jayne Gorman

      September 25, 2014

      Thanks for stopping by Clare. I look forward to checking out your blog 🙂

  6. Reply

    the paper boat sailor

    October 6, 2014

    ‘ola from a fellow travel writer! Thanks for revealing these beautiful secrets. Will come back to this post as I plan my upcoming Morocco trip.

    • Reply

      Jayne Gorman

      October 8, 2014

      You’ll have a wonderful time! Let me know if I can provide any further tips at all. J

  7. Reply

    Laura

    October 7, 2014

    Marrakesh is way up there on my bucket list but seems to get bumped off for more far flung places. I really should make it a destination for 2015.

    • Reply

      Jayne Gorman

      October 8, 2014

      I think I want to revisit for 2015. Am sure I only scratched the surface last time 🙂

LEAVE A COMMENT

RELATED POSTS

Send this to friend