Top 10 Gardens / Botanical Vacations in Africa and the Middle East
This region is the land of the world’s oldest gardens and the land of the lost Eden. Many of the more famous gardens have real Moorish overtones like those of Iran and Morocco.
- Majorelle Gardens, Marrakesh, Morocco
Hang out with fashion royalty in these gardens belonging to Yves Saint Laurent. They were originally designed by the French painter Jacques Majorelle in the 1920s and feature marble pools, raised pathways, banana trees, bamboo groves, coconut palms and bougainvilleas. Many of the features are painted in a shade of bold blue and water is an important feature with channels, fountains and ponds laced with lilies. The garden is open to the public and also houses the Islamic Art Museum of Marrakech, whose collection includes North African textiles from Saint-Laurent’s personal collection as well as ceramics, jewelry, and paintings by Majorelle.
- Bagh-e-Fin (Fin Garden), Kashan, Iran
This historic Persian garden, built by the early Safavids in 1590, is the oldest living garden in Iran and the most beautiful. Today it’s a major tourist attraction. In keeping with the gardens of the era, it employs many water features including 40 fountains. These are still fed from a spring on a hillside behind the garden, an engineering marvel that produces water pressure for a large number of circulating pools and fountains without the need for mechanical pumps. The grounds also contain trees, gardens, a palace and passages.
- Bahai Shrine and Hanging Gardens, Haifa, Israel
These beautiful terraced gardens on Mt. Carmel overlook Haifa Bay and are the result of generations of painstaking gardening. The gardens surround the shrine that marks the tomb of the founder of the Bahai faith and attract pilgrims and tourists from all over the world. In fact they are known as the Eighth Wonder of the World and the highlight is the Hanging Gardens.
- Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, Cape Town, South Africa
This famed botanical gardens nestles at the foot of Table Mountain. It was founded to preserve the country’s unique flora and is famed because, with a few minor exceptions, only indigenous plants are cultivated. Trails lead off from the gardens and are popular with walkers and mountaineers, while easier ones can be used by wheelchairs and disabled visitors. There are also regular exhibitions by stone sculptures and outdoor concerts in summer.
- Abbasi Hotel Tea Garden, Isfahan, Iran
This garden in the courtyard of a former caravanserai, has been converted into a luxury hotel. Like many Islamic gardens, these are designed to make you feel close to water. In this garden there are quadrants with pools and fountains. Elsewhere there are marigold flowerbeds, lawns, tall pines and palm trees.
- Bagh-e Eram Palace Gardens, Shiraz, Iran
The name of this garden translates as Garden of Paradise and it is certainly a natural haven. The 19th century Qajar palace on site, Kakh-e-Eram, is now open as a museum and surrounded by beautiful botanical gardens. These are famous for their long lines of tall cypresses, a long pool leading to the palace and a variety of flora that you can examine for hours.
- Arsat El Mamoun (Hotel Mamounia), Marrakesh, Morocco
The restored 15-acre gardens of this prestigious hotel face towards the Atlas Mountains. Even if you’re not staying here, you can walk the beautiful, secluded olive and orange gardens, or lunch at the restaurant or have a cocktail at the bar. If you do stay get a room with a view over the gardens and you’ll be joining good company - Sir Winston Churchill also stayed here and liked to paint in the grounds.
- Entebbe Botanical Gardens, Uganda
These 40-hectare gardens lie on the shores of the great Lake Victoria and are a tropical paradise of Ugandan plant life. The high annual rainfall helps house a variety of unusual trees and shrubs. Entebbe is also home of the Entebbe Wildlife Educational Center, a showplace for native animals of Uganda, especially chimpanzees and exotic birds.
- Caledon Wild Flower Show, South Africa
This event has been held annually since 1892 and local flower-growers still come to display their best homegrown examples every spring when they are in full bloom. The renowned show forms part of a 214-hectare nature reserve. You can hike through the Nature Reserve to see the indigenous fynbos vegetation and trees, prolific bird life and flowers and the gorgeous mountain views of the Swartberg.
- Jerusalem Botanical Gardens, Israel
Escape the bustle of the city in these quiet gardens that comprise of more than 6000 plant species. Many were brought to Israel from all over the world and have been preserved for the benefit and enjoyment of the public. They are arranged according to region. Don’t be intimated by the quantities; stroll and enjoy.