It was August of 2014 and Marrakesh was heating up to triple-digit temperatures. On my second day of my three-day weekend in Marrakesh, I decided to do the very touristy thing of getting into one of those double decker tour buses that takes people practically everywhere. The reason why I decided to do this is 1) it don’t have a rental car, my travel companion and I got to the hotel by taxi, and 2) I wanted to go to a place called Jardin Majorelle – the famous gardens in the Moroccan estate of the late French-Algerian fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent, who upon his death in 2008, had bequeathed that his estate in Marrakesh be open to the public. One of the two lines of tourist double decker buses would stop around the corner by the gardens which ultimately made my decision to hop onto one of those.
I caught the bus somewhere just outside the Medina which, by the way, took me an hour to find the bus stop for it. There was no kiosk or signs pointing to where to find it. What happened was I found one of the conductors and he pointed me to the right bus after purchasing my ticket (which cost about $8 then) from him. I then hopped onto the bus sitting on the upper deck with the canopy open exposing myself to the piping hot Moroccan sun. I thought, if I sit on the upper deck I could see everything. But somehow I did not think about it. I thought I was seeing Marrakesh the fastest and easiest way possible especially when I only have a limited amount of time here and may not have the opportunity to come here again.
The bus took us passengers to the outskirts of Marrakesh where I noticed there was a massive amount of urban development happening around the city – from building residential properties (condos, apartments, etc.) to building resorts and golf courses. Then I thought where are the history and culture in all of this? If you wander closer to the city center you will see a great number of abandoned buildings where business once held shop now empty. Amidst all the new development were various vendors for camel rides around the city. This may not be the culture people are looking for but camels somehow scream Morocco to some. You will find these camel ride vendors, mostly independent ones, sitting with their camels at the street corners or tucked away in a shaded area under tall palm trees. But I didn’t hop off the bus because I wanted to see the Jardin Majorelle.
It turned out it was the last stop of the bus before heading back to its starting point. When the bus reached the stop, I couldn’t see any signs directing visitors to the gardens. Then the bus driver muttered something in French and drove off after only 5 seconds of stopping. By the time I saw the very small sign for Jardin Majorelle just a few yards from the bus stop, it was too late. The bus had already driven off to its starting point about a mile away.
From the bus starting point, I walked back to the where I found the sign to Jardin Majorelle which felt like it was about a mile away. But this time, I have already wasted two hours in the morning from looking for the bus kiosk to riding the tour bus around the city. The walk took about 20 minutes (maybe more) and by the time I reached the gate of the garden, it was just past 12 noon.
When I entered the garden it was a complete 180 degree turn from its environment outside its walls. It was calm, surreal and peaceful despite it being located just outside a very busy road. It was lush with vegetation mostly palm trees, bamboos and tall cacti which shaded the garden from the hot Moroccan sun. Did I mention that the garden had several ponds and pools of water making it extra cooler for visitors? The house itself is closed to visitors but it was painted with the most vivid Berber blue I have ever seen. Berber blue for those who haven’t seen it is the most vivid shade of blue visitors will find anywhere because it is heavily pigmented. This color blue is very popular amongst the region of Morocco – the land of the Berbers. There is also a museum at the estate showcasing the tradition costumes of the nomadic Berbers and traders who traveled in the northwestern part of Africa. For a small fee, you will see the traditional dress and jewelry of Berber men, women and children in various colors. When you visit a place like Jardin Majorelle, I strongly encourage you to take it slow, find a spot, sit down and enjoy the peace and tranquility the garden has to offer and take it in. Because once you head out the door, it will be a different world altogether.
I managed to go back to the hotel after a peaceful afternoon at Jardin Majorelle. When I was getting ready for dinner, I suddenly noticed my shoulders and arms were bright red. Oh my God! I shouted. I have sunburn! The real stupid thing about it is that, I brought sunscreen with me and didn’t think of wearing it with my sleeveless dress.
Between looking for the bus stop, sitting at the upper deck of the bus and walking to the garden must have somehow contributed to the new color of my skin. The good thing is it was not painful. The bad thing is I would have to go through a few days of peeling and several bottles of aloe vera gel to help with the stinging that happened later. You think that by noticing the temperature and weather of Morocco in August, I would have taken some precaution. Well, not on this trip. Lesson learned. 🙂Google+