Located just west of the Medina lies the Menara Gardens: a 12th Cent garden consisting of rows of olive groves, tall palm tree and beautiful flowers. These tall trees are occasionally accompanied by a modern addition to the park: the planes flying into the nearby Marrakech Menara Airport. However, far from being a disruptive distraction, these planes fly high above the gardens, merely acting as a reminder of the busy, bustling streets outside this oasis of peaceful serenity.
The centre-point of the Menera Gardens is a green tiled pavilion beside a large pool basin. This large expanse of water, supplied with water directly from the mountains, generates a microclimate that is noticeably cooler than the surrounding streets. We talked to some locals who told us that you can swim in the basin, but no-one ever does. This knowledge perhaps answers the mystery of the rows of benches that face the pool on the opposite side of the pavilion.
On a very clear day, if you are lucky, you can see the Atlas Mountains rising above the gardens. This, however, is not as common as the postcards would have you believe; but that is not to say that the Menara gardens still holds one of the city’s prettiest sights and, as it is just a short distance from the Medina, it is easy to see why the gardens are a popular local spot for picnics or romantic afternoons.
The Menara Gardens are open every day form 8.30am until nightfall and is perhaps best reached via a short taxi ride or a celeche trip. Entrance to the garden themselves is free, but there is a small 10dhs charge for access to the pavilion.
The Koutoubia Mosque is the most visited monument in Marrakech. Standing at an impressive 77 meters tall, the mosque’s magnificent minaret tower dominates the city’s skyline providing a useful landmark to tourists and locals alike. However, perhaps one of the best perspectives of the minaret is from the Koutobia Gardens. As you enter the garden through the main gate, your eye is guided across a large fountain and along a wide path towards the minaret as it extends into the rich Moroccan sky. The effect is truly enchanting.
The Koutoubia Gardens, also known as Lalla Hassna Park, can be found right next to Jemaa el-Fna, at the heart of the Medina and within a short walking distance from all of our Riads. The park itself spreads across two hectares and provides a pleasant green paradise of immaculately trimmed rose bushes, perfectly symmetrical walkways and plenty of shade-covered benches; it is easy to see why it is a favourite resting spot for many local Marrakchi people. At the centre of the park is a Koubba (a white dome) which is the tomb of Lalla Zohra, a daughter of a liberated slave. Legend tells that she was a women during the day, but transformed into a dove at night to escape from the unwanted affections of her old master. From this, she knew all the secrets of Marrakech. Yassine, a local resting in the Koutoubia Gardens, told us that many Moroccan’s still believe this story to be true and some even name their children after her in dedication.
The park is free and open to the public at all times, even during the evening and night when the gardens and the mosque are spectacularly transformed using subtle and effective lighting. We suggest you try to visit the Koutoubia Gardens both during the day and after nightfall so that you can truly understand the magic of such a wonderful place.