We depart from London on a direct flight to Marrakech. On arrival in Marrakech we will transfer the short distance to Jnane Tamsna where there will be time to relax or take a stroll in the garden. This evening we will meet our hosts Meryanne Loum-Martin and Gary Martin for drinks and canapés in their home and a welcome dinner in the Jnane Tamsna gardens.
After breakfast at Jnane Tamsna, we will visit the oasis gardens cultivated by Gary and explore with him the khettara water harvesting tradition whose vestiges are still evident in the Palmeraie. Meryanne will show the architectural and design elements of Jnane Tamsna and how they are integrated with the gardens.
Later we will visit Majorelle Garden, the former home and garden of the French painter Jacques Majorelle, where there will be an opportunity for lunch at the Café Bousafsaf (not included). The painter came to Marrakech in the 1920s and was enchanted by the villages and people living in the High Atlas Mountains. French Governor Lyautey gave him a large orchard in what was then the outskirts of Marrakech, where Majorelle imported plants from all over the world to create a private paradise. The late Yves Saint Laurent renovated the garden. The painter’s studio within the garden is now the Berber Museum, which has an amazing collection of decorative arts and artefacts.
After some brief rest and relaxation at Jnane Tamsna we go to the Agdal area of the Medina for dinner.
After breakfast, we will drive to the High Atlas Mountains. Our day-long tour will begin with a visit to a private garden on the road to Ourika, followed by a tour of André Heller’s Anima Garden. The multi-talented Austrian artist, author, poet, singer, songwriter and actor has added ‘garden’ designer’ to his list of accomplishments with this lavish botanical creation. Shady paths lead the visitor between sumptuous trees and shrubs, in a garden filled with blossom and fragrant wonders, pavilions and sculptures, celebrating the glory of African nature.
A catered picnic lunch at the Jardin Bio-aromatique and visit to the fragrant delights of the Nectarome will be followed by a visit to the permaculture garden at Dar Taliba, a boarding house in Ourika that offers girls from Amazigh villages the opportunity to continue their formal education while valuing their own traditions.
We will return to Jnane Tamsna for dinner.
After breakfast, we will spend the morning visiting Marrakech gardens, beginning with El Badi Palace, built by Ahmad al-Mansur over a period of 25 years in the late 16th century. The original building is thought to have consisted of 360 rooms, richly decorated with marble and gold. It also has a small, underground, tunnel-like jail with about four cells where the king kept his prisoners. Unfortunately, the palace was torn apart by the Sultan Mawlay Ismail but there is still a lingering sense of grandeur and some interesting nooks and crannies to explore.
Next we visit El Bahia Palace, which was built in the late 19th century by the great vizier Sidi Moussa and intended to be the greatest palace of its time, capturing the essence of the nation’s style, both Moroccan and Islamic. There is a 2-acre garden with rooms opening onto sunlit courtyards, planted with cypress, orange trees and jasmine and furnished with wells and fountains to provide a sheltered and private space.
We will then have lunch at Nomad, a restaurant superbly located next to the retail spice markets, which serves delicious modern Moroccan cuisine (drinks not included).
The remainder of the afternoon is free to explore Marrakech at your leisure, an opportunity perhaps to visit the 12th century Koutoubia Mosque, whose immense minaret dominates the city skyline, or the central square of Djemaa El Fna, which teems with acrobats, jugglers, snake-charmers and story-tellers and provides a colourful taste of Moroccan life and culture (entrances not included).
In the early evening we will have cocktails at the Kasbah Bab Ourika, which has a spectacular location in the Ourika Valley, before returning to Jnane Tamsna for dinner.
After breakfast we depart for the ‘souks’, the labyrinth of stalls and shops that offer myriad crafts, spices and other items for sale. Accompanied by a specialist guide who can advise on the best sources of antiques, carpets, ceramics, clothes and jewellery, we will go in groups of a maximum of six people to explore the objects of interest to each person.
Lunch today will be at the Maison Arabe, a luxurious and elegant hotel with its own lush gardens.
In the afternoon, we will plunge back into the Medina for a special visit of the Jardin Secret created by Tom Stuart-Smith. Le Jardin Secret was one of the largest riads in the medina of Marrakech in the 19th century and belonged to the last sultan of Morocco before the French protectorate. The riad includes two courtyards, the larger of which has been restored as an Islamic paradise garden, reflecting the pure geometry and Koranic symbolism of its progenitors. The smaller garden shows another view of paradise, as described in the Old Testament book of Genesis, where “out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food.”
In the evening we will have a gala dinner with music and entertainment at Jnane Tamsna, an opportunity to reflect on the many sights, sounds and scents we have experienced here in magical Marrakech.
After breakfast, we transfer to Marrakech Airport for the return flight back to London.