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Marrakech has become a destination of choice for the discerning traveller seeking a taste for the exotic infused with sophistication and luxury. In a picture-book setting with views of the High Atlas Mountains, wonderful climate and cuisine and great shopping, visitors will discover a warm and friendly city with almost a thousand years of history. Known as ‘the rose among the palms’, Marrakech is characterised by its pink-coloured pisé (rammed earth) architecture and its deeply-rooted tradition for making and preserving gardens and green spaces. We have chosen a wonderful selection of gardens including those at old palaces and modern private properties. Highlights of this tour include: a private lunch at the never-open-to-the public Villa Oasis, former home of Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Bergé; Tom Stuart-Smith’s Le Jardin Secret (see HORTUS 118, pages 5–7); and, on approaching the foothills of the snow-capped High Atlas Mountains, we can relax in a herb-filled garden where tired feet are refreshed in the floral-scented vapours of individual sunken footbaths. We will also take a tour through the souk with a local guide to see (and buy) some of the world’s most irresistible fabrics and artefacts. We are accommodated at Jnane Tamsna (see HORTUS 119), guesthouse extraordinaire, sur-rounded by its own botanically-rich and fascinating garden in the city’s outlying Palmeraie. American ethnobotanist Gary Martin and his wife Meryanne Loum-Martin created Jnane Tamsna to express their own personal vision of vitality and excellence. Tranquillity abounds. Meryanne planned the buildings, inspired by the rich diversity of Islamic art and design. Gary is director of the Global Diversity Foundation that supports biodiversity in community projects on three continents.
Day 1: Sunday 26 March
Depart at 08.50 from London Gatwick on flight BA2666, arriving in Menara, Marrakech Airport at 12.40. We drive the short distance to the Palmeraie to Jnane Tamsna for a warm welcome from Gary and Meryanne and enjoy a simple lunch together. There’s time to settle in before Gary takes us on a tour of his garden before inviting us to cocktails followed by dinner at which delicious Moroccan wines will be served.
Day 2: Monday 27 March
We drive to the walled Medina, Marrakech’s heartbeat, to visit the Bahia Palace; an ornate collection of buildings converted into a palace in the late nineteenth century on behalf of the Grand Vizier Ba Ahmed ben Moussa said Ahmad (1841–1900). Lunch is at Café Arabe’s famed rooftop restaurant, followed by a visit across the street to Le Jardin Secret with contrasting Islamic and exotic courtyards. We return to Jnane Tamsna for drinks and dinner.
Day 3: Tuesday 28 March
Casa Botanica is a serious garden centre with a wonderful range of beautifully-grown exotics where we learn more about the ornamental plants found in Moroccan gardens. The collections are shielded from the fierce sun by unique colour-coded gauzes, surrounded by vibrant structures and plantings. We are then invited to visit a private English-owned garden of Arabic design featuring the most exquisite lemon arbour. Lunch is at the gardenesque Beldi Country Club with time to visit its glass-making and fabric souk – and its field of more than 10,000 roses. The evening is free for you to dine at Jnane Tamsna or we can help you book a restaurant in the city and arrange transport.
Day 4: Wednesday 29 March
André Heller, Viennese multi-media artist, perhaps best known as a musician, is also a creator of gardens. His latest venture, Anima, a few miles outside Marrakech, has much to delight, impress and perhaps challenge the keen garden visitor. Lunch will be served at Domaine de la Roseraie, a celebrated hotel restaurant surrounded by roses in Berber country among the rolling foothills of the High Atlas Mountains. Afterwards, we visit Jardin Bio-Aromatique d’Ourika, a herbal garden and shop promoting herbs and plant extracts for beauty, health and culinary use; with an opportunity to relax in herbal footbaths and sip refreshing mint tea. Return to Jnane Tamsna for a free evening.
Day 5: Thursday 30 March
A day of a lifetime: we are privileged to be invited to Villa Oasis with lunch in one of its beautiful pavilions nestling in one of the world’s most heavenly gardens, studded with pale blue, lime green and soft yellow pots, with a citrus garden, lily pool, shaded walkways and so much more. It adjoins the better-known Jardin Majorelle, a rhapsody of intense plantsmanship incorporating the exquisite Berber museum housed in Jacques Majorelle’s former Cubist painting studio. We then return to Jnane Tamsna for a Gala Dinner.
Day 6: Friday 31 March
We include another beautiful private garden this morning followed by a visit to the world-famous La Mamounia for lunch by the pool before we return to Marrakech, Menara Airport for flight BA2667 departing at 19.40, arriving at London Gatwick at 23.10.