The best-hidden gem: Secret garden Marrakech
As you wander through the bustling streets and souks of Marrakech’s medina, it’s hard to imagine this whirlwind city was traditionally a garden city. Behind every door of a Riad or a palace, there is a courtyard. Thus, the Mouassine district is home to a whole special garden: The secret garden Marrakech.
Once in the 16th century, this site was home to a palace of an important official in the name of the Saadian Dynasty. This might ring your bell because the El Badi Palace and the Saadian tombs are the only remains of this Royal House in Marrakech. You can read more about it under the cultural attractions on this website.
This dynasty fell and the royal scepter was taken over by the Alaouit Dynasty, where the current King Mohammed VI descends of. In that period, the illustrious Sultan Moulay Ismail in power was best known for his harem of 500 women and possibly more than 1000 children. He wanted to make Meknes the new Royal City. Before that, he had existing palaces demolished to reuse material for the construction of his city. In particular, the memories of the predecessors of the Saadian dynasty were banned.
For example, this palace in the north of the medina was completely dismantled and for centuries a vacant lot lay in the middle of the busy neighborhood. Until in the mid-19th century, an important chief from the Atlas Mountains took possession of the land. He built on the foundations a new royal residence and spacious accommodations. With respect for the garden that used to be there. Unfortunately, he couldn’t enjoy his beautiful creation, because the story goes that he was poisoned out of jealousy. Or would that be a myth to tell the story of this garden even more mysterious?
Until 1934 the complex was inhabited by a watchmaker and confidant of the then reigning king. 74 years after his death no one paid any more attention to it! Until 2008, the curiosity of the owners of Cafe Arabe – Lauro Milan and Sante Giovanni Albonetti – was unstoppable. Their establishment is across the street and they became intrigued as to what is behind it high wall they looked out on. The secret would be unraveled!
Visit Secret Garden Marrakech
In Moroccan style, inquiries were made in the neighborhood to which person may call himself the owner of this unknown Marrakech site. Lauro and Sante came into conversation with as many as 130 heirs of the complex, who themselves did not know exactly what they inherited from the last occupant; a piece of history that was forgotten.
After a successful negotiation, the Italians were allowed to call themselves the new owner. When pruning the vegetation, they came across one beautiful garden! They realized that they had an important piece of cultural heritage and immediately left their original plan: building a hotel. They wanted to share this old garden with the world.
Well-known landscape architect Tom Stuart Smith was brought in to restore the garden to its former glory. With his philosophy about people and connecting the environment, he has succeeded in this project. The spacious entrance leads you to the first garden. This exotic garden is in a modern style designed with plants from various countries that require little water. A pavilion provides the passage to the second and largest garden of Secret Garden Marrakech.
For the redesign of this part, the choice was made to use the traditional colors that occur in an original Islamic garden: beige and green. Another important value of this type of garden is the use of geometric design. Four compartments created order in the disorder of nature. Water is associated by Muslims with “life” and heaven is also mentioned in the Quran described as “a garden where water flows.” The fountain and the channels that irrigate the four planes in the garden symbolize this element. The green paths also contain a reference to the water. A visual is created by following the pattern and movement of the floor tiles. The emblem of “running water”!
There are more secrets to discover! The size of the garden indicates that someone previously lived there. The complex houses its hammam, a prayer room, and the presence of a majestic 17-meter high tower. You can climb the tower which gives you a beautiful view of the garden. With clear weather, you can even see the Atlas Mountains in the distance. It has for centuries provided meltwater through underground channels to the city of Marrakech.
Tip! We recommend that you visit the garden at the end of the afternoon because then you can enjoy it in peace. You can take a seat on one bench or the terrace for a nice snack. At the end of the day, it is a real pleasure to climb the tower, when the magical city of Marrakech is slowly turning red. You can combine a visit to the garden with shopping in this nice neighborhood. Think to the boutique Max and Jan and Hanout that are located there. You can end the day with a nice dinner in the restaurant Le Jardin or of course Cafe Arabe. A suitable occasion to enjoy all the impressions!