Situated close to the Royal Palace, to the southern edge of the Marrakech medina, the Agdal Gardens exists as a superb example of the architectural and landscaping skill. Covering an area of approximately 400 hectares, the garden comprises of orange, apricot, lemon, fig, and pomegranate trees in rectangular plots, all conjoined by olive-tree lined walkways.
The productive orchards of the Agdal Gardens are irrigated using water brought from the Ourika Valley in the Atlas Mountains by an intricate network of underground pools, channels and ditches known as khettera. This network dates back to the 12th and was an amazing feat of engineering.
The gardens were created in 1157 by Abd al-Mu’min of the Almohad dynasty at the same time as the nearby Menara Gardens. As founder of the Almohad capital in Marrakech, Abd al-Mu’min undertook many significant building projects in the city between 1147 and his death in 1163. They were renovated by the Saadi dynasty and then enlarged during the reign of Moulay Abderrahmane in the 19th century. From 1985 the Agdal Gardens were listed as a World Heritage Site in 1985 alongside the medina of Marrakech and the Menara Gardens.
The name “Agdal” comes from the Berber language and means “walled meadow” as the gardens were once surrounded by a large pisé walls. Today, the Agdal Gardens are open to the public and free to visit from 9am to 6pm only on Friday and Sunday. It is possible to reach the gardens on foot, but our riad staff would be more than happy to help arrange transport if you would prefer to take a taxi or a calèche.
As they are situated to the South of the Marrakech Medina, they are closest to our Raid Dar Habiba. However, all our luxury Raids are located in the heart of the Ancient Marrakech Medina and function as perfect bases from which to explore the red city.
Although Marrakech is often known as ‘The Red City’ thanks to the pisé-cement Ramparts that surround the old town, once you enter the Medina it becomes clear that Marrakech actually holds a multitude of vibrant and bright colours. One such colour is the distinctive and infamously unique Majorelle Blue.
In 1924 the French artist Jacques Majorelle constructed the spectacular Majorelle Gardens, which is perhaps our favourite attraction in Marrakech. Within his garden, later purchased by Yves St. Laurent, Jacques Majorelle painted the garden walls, fountains and Riad, which now stands as the Berber Museum, in a distinct blue pigment. Indeed this clear, fresh, intense blue was so unique that the colour became trademarked under the (slightly egotistical) name Majorelle Blue. However, the colour was not simply a new creation for the Majorelle Gardens project. The inspiration for this colour came in the cobalt blue used in traditional Moroccan tiles, the majestic indigo found decorating the windows of Moroccan Kasbahs and the bright blue seen in the veils of the Tuareg tribe and Berber burnouses.
Jacques Majorelle’s pigment can also be traced back to the dazzling Ultramarine Blue of the lapis lazuli stones. In the 15th century lapis lazuli was a rare, hard stone that could only be found in a the mines of Badakhshan along the shores of the upper Oxus, known as modern-day Afghanistan. Once it was introduced to Europe via Venice, the Ultramarine Blue of the lapis lazuli quickly became more expensive than gold. It was so precious that, at one point, the Catholic Church even restricted the use of the colour blue to religious paintings depicting Mary, the Mother of Jesus. In his garden Majorelle combined his Ultramarine-influenced blue with hints of yellow in a way that resembles a blue lapis lazuli stone flecked with it’s yellow iron pyrites in an attempt to develop a modern pigment that mimicked the lapis of antiquity.
Although the azure essence of this unique Majorelle blue has, in turn, gone on to inspire a plethora of architects, artists and designers around the world, nothing beats seeing the dazzling colour in it’s birthplace. The Majorelle Gardens are a must-see for anyone visiting Marrakech. Perhaps, in this way, the Majorelle Blue itself is also a must-see for anyone visiting Marrakech.
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 Arabic word Riad means garden and some of the most beautiful gardens in Marrakech are to be found in the medina providing shade in traditional houses. There are also a number of public gardens which are well worth a visit.
Established in the 1920’s by French painter Jacques Majorelle and made famous as the Marrakech residence of the late Yves St Laurent. This garden is located in the New town of Guiliz and is very much a City Garden screened by high walls and very much an African garden with its splendid cacti, palms and bougainvillea. The artist’s studio is now a museum of Islamic art which also exhibits some works by Majorelle himself.
Outside the medina about a mile and a half from the Koutoubia mosque, a pleasant walk but as there is very little shade on the route it is best avoided in the heat of the day. The focal point of the garden is an immense lake with an elegant royal pavilion sitting behind it. The perfect backdrop to this tranquil scene is provided by acres of fields which have been olive groves since the twelfth century.
The ‘Jardin Agdal’ cover more than 30 acres and like the Menara gardens were laid out at the time of the twelfth century Almohad dynasty. Agdal contains a great variety of plants as well as a number of pavilions some of which are open to the public and some of which are kept for the private use of the Moroccan Royal family. The gardens are located behind the Royal Palace to the south of the Medina.