Now Reading
A gay oasis in the middle of Morocco?

A gay oasis in the middle of Morocco?

The bright blue walls of the garden were a surprise in London’s dreary real estate market, a welcome sight after a slew of despondent and pathetic flats I was looking to rent.

‘I modeled the space after the Yves Saint Laurent gardens in Marrakech,’ the landlord told me.

Obviously, I took the flat, but I also took to the Internet to learn more about this garden I had known nothing about, and was already in love with.

It might seem weird to have an obsession with a garden, but I’ve been there.

The Saint Laurent gardens, officially Jardin Majorelle after French artist Jacques Majorelle who spent 40 years designing and building, immediately took me back to the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City.

The same bright blue walls, what I imagine is the same feeling of serenity and otherworldliness walking the paths lined with blooming green plants.

Only replace the meso-American volcanic statues with Moorish towers and walls.

What struck me the most about the Jardin Majorelle was the use of vibrant color, and the same-sex story line behind the garden’s resplendent journey to completion for future generations to enjoy.

I love that specific bright blue… that same blue used for Sarah Michelle Gellar’s in Cruel Intentions… the same Tardis blue that keeps on popping across all of space and time.

The specific shade of cobalt blue is now officially known as Majorelle Blue, and is so popular it can be bought in tubs straight from the garden.

The use of vibrant color comes from the inspiration of Jacques Majorelle, who designed the gardens during the 1920s and 30s when Morocco was still a protectorate of France.

The garden opened in 1947, a full 12 acres of gardens, walkways and a villa Majorelle constructed.

After 1955, the garden began falling into disrepair after Majorelle was in a car accident and had to start selling off portions of the garden.

Majorelle died in 1962, just four years before Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé encountered the gardens in 1966 during their first stay in Marrakech.

After learning of plans to turn the gardens into a hotel, the couple bought the Jardin Majorelle in 1980.

‘We quickly became very familiar with this garden, and went there every day. It was open to the public yet almost empty.

‘We were seduced by this oasis where colors used by Matisse were mixed with those of nature. And when we heard that the garden was to be sold and replaced by a hotel, we did everything we could to stop that project from happening.

This is how we eventually became owners of the garden and of the villa. And we have brought life back to the garden through the years.’

Saint Laurent loved the gardens so much, his ashes were scattered in the gardens after his death in 2008.

Jalil Lespert, the director of the new film about Saint Laurent’s life said of the couple: ‘They could have bought private jets but they did that instead, and that is really a sign of their honorable nature.’

A round-the-clock team of over 20 gardeners, and an automatic irrigation system have ensured that the gardens are now one of the most visited places in the country.

What’s refreshing is that there seems to be a genuine feeling of appreciation and love to Saint Laurent for his dedication to the gardens, especially in a country where same-sex activity is illegal.

Not that the gardens are specifically gay per se, but the fact that a major tourist destination is thriving thanks to the love and dedication of a gay couple is something worth celebrating, and definitely worth visiting.