With Love, from Marrakech, Morocco

During a four-week study sabbatical in April and May of this year, I had the rare privilege, and pleasure, to visit some truly inspiring gardens and homes in Morocco. Some were public gardens, but many were private, and enjoying exclusive access to these, with the designers and owners was immensely rewarding, inspiring and educational.

When I arrive in Marrakech in the late afternoon, of early May, it is pouring rain. The surrounding countryside is spectacular, with the foot of the High Atlas Mountains, which we had just crossed, only 30kms away. Known as the Red City, for the colour of its red sandstone walls, Marrakech is the fourth largest city in Morocco and one of the four former imperial cities built by the Moroccan Berber empires.

Today it is one of the busiest cities in Africa, and has the largest traditional souk in Morocco. Jemaa el-Fnaa is the busiest square in Africa and well worth a visit. I visited on a public holiday which made it all the more interesting for the variety of ‘entertainment’ on show! UNESCO declared the old town area a World Heritage site in 1985. The city is particular popular with the French, and expatriates have invested heavily in Marrakech since Moroccan independence. In the 1960’s and ‘70’s it became a popular destination for the rich and famous – The Beatles, Yves Saint-Laurent, The Rolling Stones and Jean-Paul Getty, some pouring money into restoring and building/ rebuilding riads, gardens and palaces.

Story and photographs by Susan Crichton-Walsh.