At dawn, the spirits are lit.
Listen to the whispers of the waves
Beautiful music, beautiful banner
To Sidi Mogdoul I’m heading
Great is the joy of Essaouira;
Beautiful girls, venerable old men,
All are hurrying in the middle of the paths …

Some paintings of Moussems and Festivals around Essaouira and the Chiadma region by French Orientalist painter Jacques Majorelle.  Lovers of Marrakech may make the association with the the villa and gardens that now carry his name, Les Jardins Majorelle.

Essaouira and the Chiadma region was relatively easy to access by Majorelle from Marrakech,  and he painted scenes from the local moussems ( see below ).   He also travelled widely over Morocco and north Africa. The diary of his trip in 1922, entitled, “Jacques Majorelle,  Road Trip Diary of a Painter in the Atlas and the Anti-Atlas,” was the only text he ever published.


Crepuscule à Moula Dourein / Moussem at Moulay Bouzerktoun


In 1923, Jacques Majorelle bought a four-acre plot, situated on the border of a palm grove in Marrakech and began planting a luxuriant garden which would become known as the Jardins Majorelle or Majorelle Garden. Initially, he built a house in the Mooroccan style but in 1931, he commissioned the architect, Paul Sinoir, to design a Cubist villa within the grounds. In 1937, he painted the villa in a special shade of the blue, which Majorelle had developed after being inspired by the blue tiles prevalent in southern Morocco. This colour was used extensively in Majorelle’s house and garden, and now carries his name; Majorelle Blue.


Moula Dourein fête dela mer/Moulay Bouzerktoun Festival by the sea


The garden proved costly to run and in 1947, Majorelle opened the garden to the public with an admission fee designed to defray the cost of maintenance. He sold the house and land in the 1950s, after which it fell into disrepair. It was rediscovered in the 1980s, by designers, Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé who set about restoring it and saving it. Yves Saint-Laurent and Pierre Bergé, who were keen art collectors, also began acquiring paintings by Majorelle. Yves Saint Laurent died in 2008 and his ashes were scattered in the gardens.


Moussem à Mogador/Moussem at Mogador


Majorelle is recognised as one of the early modernist Orientalists.  During his lifetime, many of Majorelle’s paintings were sold to private buyers and remain in private collections. Some of his early works can be found in Museums around his birthplace such as the Musee de l’Ecole de Nancy. Examples of his later work can be seen in the Mamounia Hotel, Marrakesch, the French Consulate of Marrakech and in the Villa at the Majorelle Gardens


Moussem dans les Chiadma au printemps/Moussem in the Chiadma in the spring



Marabout Moula Dourein/Marabout Moulay Bouzerktoun


Many of his paintings can be viewed here

A link to the Jardins Majorelle in Marrakech is here

Out of interest here is a link to an auction of his original paintings and writings of his trip into the Atlas mountains


Marchand de soupe à Moula Dourein/Soup Seller at Moulay Bouzerktoun