It is late spring verging on summer in Marrakech, and this is the time of year when gardens are especially vibrant. Citrus trees have already shared the fragrance of their abundant white blossoms, and the less conspicuous olive flowers have come and gone, promising a rich harvest in the autumn. Now we have an explosion of flowers in our notably zen gardens: larkspurs blooming like wildflowers across ornamental beds, native honeysuckle matching the beauty of exotic climbing bauhinia, and a new garden of ornamental shrubs adding a variety of forms and colors. A personal favourite is the ‘flor del mar’ (Caesalpinia exostemma), a native of Mexico and Central America that is quite rarely cultivated. Its abundant red and yellow flowers appear before the leaves, providing a distinctive floral display.
We are proud to announce that Meryanne’s boutique is coming back, opening with a flourish on the 15th of December! This new edition resonates with the inspired creativity that Meryanne has brought to Marrakech over the last 28 years. She first came to Morocco in 1985 to design a house for her mother in the Marrakech Palmeraie, the chic oasis neighborhood outside the walls of the historic Medina. This architectural delight was met with such intense media coverage in international design magazines that the Parisian lawyer gave in to temptation, switched careers and threw herself heart and soul into her lifelong passion for design and architecture. This set her on a path to become a pioneer in establishing exclusive luxury villas, restoring riads and creating boutique hotels in Marrakech, merging exceptional private accommodation with cultural and culinary experiences.
Growing up at Jnane Tamsna had its perks. As a kid, I’d go on lengthy bike rides through the palm grove accompanied by my trusty dogs to discover our surroundings. But I did not even have to leave our property to expand my horizons. When I was in the 4th grade, I would run up the stairs of the Moussafir Pavillion as soon as I got back from school. Once at the top, I’d look down from the rooftop terrace into the garden, where painter Phillipe Deltour would be crouched over a large canvas spread out on the ground. At that time, the Belgian artist was using charcoal to draw on recycled cement bag paper. Having always had a passion for art, I just loved being perched on the roof watching him work until the sun went down.
Exploring the Marrakech Medina never gets old for me, and wandering the streets of the vibrant souks with my motherMeryanne is my favorite way to re-discover my city. On our last trip to the Place des Ferblantiers, not far from the better-known Jemaa El Fna Square, we came across a hip new store called Mini Boutique.
Apart from offering a spectacular garden visited by over 700,000 people a year, the Fondation Jardin Majorelle created a Berber Museum two years ago – a must see for visitors to Marrakech. Among its activities, the Museum hosts an annual colloquium focused on Berber culture, adding to Marrakech’s vibrant intellectual life, which is inspired by the city’s rich culture and history.
This year’s event, which took place yesterday at the French Cultural Institute, addressed Berber knowledge and know-how, including its transmission in places like Marrakech’s famed Jemaa el Fna main square.
I am never blasé about the incredible creative energy Marrakech attracts and generates.Ever since the iconic figure of Moroccan interiors, the American Bill Willis, came here in the 1960s, hundreds of visitors have come, stayed or returned to be part of the incredible design crucible rooted in this millenary cultural crossroad.
I found new evidence of this creativity last week when I went to the Four Seasons Resort, where a new gallery is showing the jewellery of Marrakech resident Joanna Bristow. I have known Joanna for over 16 years; we were selling her work in Ryad Tamsna, a gallery I had in the Medina from 1999 to 2004. It is intelligent, tasteful and elegant. Chic design whose elegance is international and whose ethnicity is modern and timeless. It made me feel like reincarnating my gallery at Jnane Tamsna (stay tuned!).
My latest garden project is to cultivate a maquis – a Mediterranean shrub landscape – in front of the main entrance of Jnane House. Against a backdrop of Moorish arches, dwarf fan palms and majestic date palms, I had planted jasmine, lavender and rosemary, which made for a beautiful and fragrant combination for a number of years. Because the lavender and rosemary had become woody, and the jasmine invaded by weeds, I decided it was time for a spring cleaning and replanting.
I was in Rabat last week at the Fondation Orient-Occident founded by our remarkable friend Yasmina Filali. Over 500 refugees, who have fled Iraq, Kurdistan, Afghanistan, Ivory Coast and the Congo, find purpose for their new lives in the Fondation’s welcoming building. On their long journey to Morocco, during months and years, they would wake up to a day of uncertainty, with miles to walk from civil unrest, abuse, rape and no future. People from these very diverse places have a space to cook, embroider, learn, play, sew, sing and perpetuate the creativity that is in their veins, spirits and souls. The Fondation allows them to have a social life, recreate a community and cling to hope for their culture.
In April, the first book on Gardens of Marrakech will appear with the spring flowers, written by Angelica Gray and illustrated with gorgeous photos by Alessio Mei. The reviews are glowing, including one in The Independent. We are thrilled that the verdant entrance of Jnane Tamsna, our Marrakech boutique hotel, was chosen for the front cover.
The photo captures the magic of our lush courtyard. I designed the house around the date palms that had been on the land for centuries. As they were too big to be moved, we left one is in the middle of the front entrance as you may see here, through the Moorish arches! The first riad courtyard – from where this photo is taken – was planted around another robust date palm.
Stefani Greenberg and Desirée Gruber, the founders of Theodora and Callum, the very cool fashion company, were recently visiting Marrakech on what they called “a voyage of inspiration.” I was honoured to be asked by their public relations company to organise a dinner where they could meet creative locals. From the fields of architecture, fashion, furniture, interiors and jewellery, I assembled a dozen Marrakech-based designers to meet with these brilliant and achieved New Yorkers.
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