Tag Archives: moorish gardens

The Jardins d’Essais, Rabat’s Historic Botanical Gardens, Part II: The Andalusian Garden

The city of Rabat, capital of Morocco, is a Unesco World Heritage site, and the Jardins d’Essai Botaniques, literally meaning Gardens of Botanical Trials, was classified a national heritage site in 1992.

These gardens were created between 1914 and 1919, under a joint initiative of the sultan  Moulay Hafid and the French Protectorate. They were designed by one of my favorite garden architects, Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier, best known for the Rose Garden and the Iris Garden of Bagatelle outside Paris, but who created gardens in Spain and Morocco in addition to his city planning work as a French public servant, laying out the plans for the modern cities of Morocco.

The gardens were reopened by the current King in 2013, following extensive renovations after years of neglect. They include over 650 species of plants, including rare varieties of tropical, sub-tropical, and succulents, and an arboretum.

The Jardins d’Essais are separated by a road into two distinct gardens.  the western side includes the Moorish garden and museum, while the eastern garden is a bit larger and more formal, with distinct garden areas for various types of plants.

Jardins d'Essais, Botanical Gardens, Rabat, Morocco

Because there is a good bit to see here, I am dividing this into several posts, and this is the second post on the western gardens.

Forestier was intensely influenced by the gardens of Andalusia, in particular the presence of water. He recreated for example the water canal running down the stairs of the Generalife in Granada, in the stairs of the Larribal Gardens he created in Barcelona. Here, he gives us a typical Andalusian garden, complete with plantings, water features, and a Moorish house used as the garden museum.

Jardins d'Essais, Botanical Gardens, Rabat, Morocco

Jardins d'Essais, Botanical Gardens, Rabat, Morocco Jardins d'Essais, Botanical Gardens, Rabat, Morocco

Jardins d'Essais, Botanical Gardens, Rabat, Morocco

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The Jardins d’Essais: Rabat’s Historic Botanical Gardens, Part I

The city of Rabat, capital of Morocco, is a Unesco World Heritage site, and the Jardins d’Essai Botaniques, literally meaning Gardens of Botanical Trials, was classified a national heritage site in 1992.

These gardens were created between 1914 and 1919, under a joint initiative of the sultan  Moulay Hafid and the French Protectorate. They were designed by one of my favorite garden architects, Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier, best known for the Rose Garden and the Iris Garden of Bagatelle outside Paris, but who created gardens in Spain and Morocco in addition to his city planning work as a French public servant, laying out the plans for the modern cities of Morocco.

The gardens were reopened by the current King in 2013, following extensive renovations after years of neglect. They include over 650 species of plants, including rare varieties of tropical, sub-tropical, and succulents, and an arboretum.

The Jardins d’Essais are separated by a road into two distinct gardens.  the western side includes the Moorish garden and museum, while the eastern garden is a bit larger and more formal, with distinct garden areas for various types of plants.

Jardins d'Essais, Botanical Gardens, Rabat, Morocco

Because there is a good bit to see here, I am dividing this into several posts, and this is the first post on the western gardens.

While inaugurated in 2013, much work remained to bring these gardens back to their former glory, and it is visible in particular in the western gardens were large areas remain to be cleaned up, and others have been planted or replanted in recent years so the specimens are still quite small. But while wandering down the alleys, Forestier’s signature style is unmistakable in the way he creates intimate garden spaces tucked away everywhere, and blends plantings and garden structures seamlessly for an element of surprise.

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Maria Luisa Park in Sevilla: the Garden of the Lions

Maria Luisa, Infanta of Spain (1832-1897) was the younger sister of Isabella II, queen of Spain. She married Antoine, Duke of Montpensier, youngest son of the French King Louis Philippe, and became Duchess of Montpensier.

Most of the grounds that form Maria Luisa Park today where originally part of the Palace of San Telmo and donated by Maria Luisa to the city in 1893 to be used as public gardens. The palace , a magnificent example of Spanish baroque architecture was rehabilitated and converted in the 1990s into the seat of the autonomous government of Andalusia. It stands today just outside Maria Luisa Park.

French urban planner and landscape designer Jean Claude Nicolas Forestier, who also created the Bagatelle Rose Garden and the Laribal Gardens in Barcelona, started work on the park in 1911. Also in preparation of the 1929 World’s Fair, architect Anibal Gonzales began work on the Plaza de Espana building and some of the pavilions.

Under Forestier, who had been heavily influenced by the gardens of Andalusia and Morocco, the Park became a Moorish inspired extravaganza of tiled fountains, ponds, arbors, pavillions and other structures, planted in a lush Mediterranean style with vines, bougainvilleas, roses, palms orange trees and flower beds.

I discovered Forestier’s work when in Barcelona, visiting the stunning terraced Laribal Gardens on the hill of Montjuic.  These gardens lead from fountains to gazebos to arbors to rose gardens to the top of the hill where you discover the sweeping views down the hill with water stairs inspired by the Alhambra leading back down. This element of surprise and wonder is one I have found in all of Forestier’s gardens, whether in Paris at Bagatelle, Morocco at the Jardins d’Essais or here.

This park being such an expansive and complex creation, I am featuring it through several posts.This first one showcases the Garden of the Lions (11) and the Fountain of the Alvarez Quintero Brothers (14) just behind it. Both are stunning in very different ways. The Fountain of the Lions features large fountains surrounded with sculptures and geometrical borders with a clear Moorish influence. The Quintero fountain is a masterpiece of tile work that ties in with the incredibly detailed allover moasaics of the Plaza de Espana at the other end of the park.

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A Stunning Andalusian Patio at Sevilla’s Alfonso XIII

Hotel Alfonso XIII, or the Alfonso as it is often referred to, is a historic landmark building in old Seville, near the Cathedral and the Alcazar. Inaugurated in 1929, the year of the World Fair that was instrumental in bringing to Seville the Plaza de Espana and Maria Luisa Park, it is a materpiece of neo-mudejar, or neo-moorish style, architecture, with arches, tile murals and water features.  The patio is truly the heart of the hotel, with reception rooms, lounges, and the restaurant all laid out around it, and it is indeed a treat to spend a leisurely hour there having drinks or coffee there. The grounds outside are also landcaped in a distinctly Andalusian style.

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And of course, the stunning reception rooms around the courtyard.

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The Hassan Tower Gardens in Rabat, Morocco

The city of Rabat, capital of Morocco, is a Unesco World Heritage site, One of the most famous and distinctive landmarks in the city is the Hassan Tower. Begun in the 12th century, it was at one time the second largest mosque in the the islamic world, but little remains of it besides the tower of minaret, reminiscent of the Koutoubia in Marrakech.

At the foot of the tower, are some pleasant gardens, typical of Moorish and Andalusian gardens, with landscaped terraces, meandering paths, and of course the ever present water features connecting multiple levels with canals, ponds and fountains.  While not extraordinary in any way, these are very pleasant gardens worth visiting on a trip to see the Hassan Tower.

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The Alhambra’s Gardens in Granada: The UpperTerraces

Granada, in southern Spain,  is of course most famous for the Alhambra and Generalife gardens.  The patios of the Alhambra are iconic images of Granada and the best known gardens are those of the Generalife, the vacation palace on the other side of the Alhambra complex.

The gardens of the Alhambra proper however,  while often overlooked, deserve a visit. They are laid out as a series of terraces starting at the lower terrace with a pavilion and large reflecting pond, and then arbored stairs leading to a series of terraces landscaped in a very Mediterranean style and reminiscent of some of the gardens found in Provence or Italy. I am featuring in this post the upper terraces.

Although some of the terraces feature borders formally edged in boxwood, the upper terraces have the feel of a much more intimate garden: paths and stone steps meander from terrace to terrace and along small ponds, designed for a casual promenade rather than for grand effect.

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Maria Luisa Park in Sevilla: Fountain of the Frogs and Island of the Birds

Maria Luisa, Infanta of Spain (1832-1897) was the younger sister of Isabella II, queen of Spain. She married Antoine, Duke of Montpensier, youngest son of the French King Louis Philippe, and became Duchess of Montpensier.

Most of the grounds that form Maria Luisa Park today where originally part of the Palace of San Telmo and donated by Maria Luisa to the city in 1893 to be used as public gardens. The palace , a magnificent example of Spanish baroque architecture was rehabilitated and converted in the 1990s into the seat of the autonomous government of Andalusia. It stands today just outside Maria Luisa Park.

French urban planner and landscape designer Jean Claude Nicolas Forestier, who also created the Bagatelle Rose Garden and the Laribal Gardens in Barcelona, started work on the park in 1911. Also in preparation of the 1929 World’s Fair, architect Anibal Gonzales began work on the Plaza de Espana building and some of the pavilions.

Under Forestier, who had been heavily influenced by the gardens of Andalusia and Morocco, the Park became a Moorish inspired extravaganza of tiled fountains, ponds, arbors, pavillions and other structures, planted in a lush Mediterranean style with vines, bougainvilleas, roses, palms orange trees and flower beds.

I discovered Forestier’s work when in Barcelona, visiting the stunning terraced Laribal Gardens on the hill of Montjuic.  These gardens lead from fountains to gazebos to arbors to rose gardens to the top of the hill where you discover the sweeping views down the hill with water stairs inspired by the Alhambra leading back down. This element of surprise and wonder is one I have found in all of Forestier’s gardens, whether in Paris at Bagatelle, Morocco at the Jardins d’Essais or here.

This park being such an expansive and complex creation, I am featuring it through several posts.This one showcases the Fountain of the Frogs (34 on map) and the Island of the Birds (6, Island of the Ducks on the map).   The whimsical Fountain of the Frog has colorful Andalusian ceramic frogs surroundinga fountain, followed by a pond that leads the Garden of the Lions to the Isleta de los Patos, or Birds Island.  The island provides a sanctuary for the many birds inhabiting the park; its focal point is the Pavilion of King Alfonso XII, which dates back to the time it was part of the San Telmo Palace.

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