I love Moroccan-inspired spaces. There’s something about the wild combination of colour and pattern, kept elegantly in check by simple design principles that I just find totally stunning. I’ve visited a few places in North Africa, and have found that Morocco has it’s own buzzy, cosmopolitan culture and vibe you don’t quite get in the neighbouring countries. Even its name is kind of sexy – in Arabic, Morocco is called al-Maghrib, or “the place where the sun sets”. It’s the perfect description of the sun-baked cities and the scorching desert that surrounds them.
So, how does this link to gardens? Well, traditional Moroccan houses are designed around a central garden feature. The building style is actually called a riad, named after the garden.
Riads are designed to be a sanctuary from the heat and dust of the outside, with a cool, clean and calming garden at their core. Even in bustling cities like Marrakesh and Casablanca, homes have these beautiful symmetrical layouts, with bright colours, large terracotta pots, and lush evergreen gardens. Once you know what you’re looking for, you’ll spot Moroccan-inspired garden design all over the world.
Creating Your Oasis: 8 Morocco Themed Garden Ideas
If you fancy stepping outside into your own tropical sanctuary, here are eight ways you can steal some Morocco themed garden ideas to recreate the style for yourself.
Embrace rich, vivid colours
Under the blaze of the North African sun, rich colours like turquoise, teal, and burnt yellow really sizzle – and there’s no such thing as too much colour. For example, in the city of Chefchaouen (also known locally as Chaouen) the streets and buildings are almost entirely blue-washed. The colour is said to repel mosquitoes and keep the city cool, but the incredible colour has made Chefchaouen world-famous, and it’s widely considered the most beautiful city in Morocco.
In riads, bright greens, blues and magenta contrast dramatically against terracotta pots, whitewashed walls and stone pathways in grey or beige. Even if you keep the foundations of your garden neutral, choose bold hues for your canopies, throw pillows and decorations to make a big statement with a Moroccan-garden vibe.
Incorporate intricate tiles
The Moroccan cities of Fez and Meknes are famous for their tile-making. Why? Partly because they do a fantastic job, but also because the clay in Fez is this fantastic shade of grey that produces these unusual, beautiful tiles once it’s fired. Coloured Moroccan tiles are also known as zellige (pronounced z’liz), and if you’re a keen traveller, you’ll find these zellige tiles just about everywhere, from the Alhambra in Spain to the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca. Zellige tiles are arranged in striking geometric patterns, often featuring bold shades of blue, yellow and green. They’re popular as kitchen backsplashes and stair risers, as well as floor and wall tiles.
Of course, for the fraction of the time, cost and effort, you could use a geometric stencil to paint a tile effect on your path, fences or patio. Alternatively, you can look for other decor elements that feature Moroccan tiles, like tables, trays, pots and mirrors.
Layer your garden decor
Talking of decor, Moroccan-styled gardens are usually carefully curated in layers of colour and texture. For your seating area, try adding blankets, drapes, cushions and rugs in similar colour palettes. On walls and fences, layer plain and patterned decor (like decorative plates, hanging baskets and curtains to create depth.
Take a look at our list of bohemian garden ideas for more ways to incorporate colour and layering into your garden decorations.
The magic of water
In Islam, paradise is often thought to be a lush garden. Perhaps because of this, Morocco themed garden ideas are often centred around a pool or fountain, which creates a tranquil ambience (and literally keeps the temperatures down).
If you have the space (and the inclination), you could dig your own Moroccan-inspired reflecting pool. It doesn’t need to be very deep, but your main challenge will be to keep the water clean and inviting!
A more manageable option might be to install a water feature, or fountain. In a riad, the fountain is usually right in the middle, mounted inside an octagonal pool with water flowing out in four directions.
Not quite ready for a water feature? What about using shiny blue tiles to create a similar effect? This gorgeous pathway looks like a tropical stream, gleaming in the sunshine.
Plant a green paradise
If paradise is a garden, then you can’t paradise is going to need plants. Moroccan gardens make great use of tall swaying palm trees, although bay trees or olive trees also evoke a tropical kind of heat (and grow quite well in the UK). Trees are usually placed around the middle of the courtyard – in a riad, you would be aiming to see them from all of the rooms around the garden. In the UK, you might prefer to plant them further back, somewhere you can see from each window overlooking the garden.
Cacti and tall evergreens such as agave would also be suitable for a Moroccan garden. Choose succulents that are happy to grow in a cooler climate, and place them in large terracotta pots around the courtyard to maximize the greenery.
Plants can add more than visual appeal to a Moroccan style garden. Fragrant plants such as roses, mint bushes, lemon thyme or rosemary will diffuse a wonderful fragrance around your space, which is an often-overlooked aspect of garden design. Herbs grow really well in pots, so look for brightly-painted planters to add a splash of colour as well as scent.
Get fancy with furniture
It’s easy to choose furniture for a Moroccan style garden; rugs and floor cushions, ottomans and wicker furniture are all at home in a riad. The breezy, Bohemian style draws a lot of inspiration from Morocco, reflecting a more laid-back approach to furniture and design.
Low-level furniture is a beautiful touch and really builds on the “relaxed” aesthetic. Use as many textiles as you like – the richer and more tactile the better. Moroccan gardens use a lot of textiles, from the world-famous Marrakesh rugs to the broad silk baldachins (canopies).
When designing your own Moroccan garden space, focus on comfort, colour and shade.
Plan your space and your view
As I may have mentioned by now, riad gardens are designed to be viewed from all angles – whether that’s the ground-level inside the courtyard, or from an upstairs balcony or window. When working your Morocco themed garden ideas into a new layout, think about how it will look from each aspect of your home.
Symmetry is essential in Morocco themed garden ideas, and the central pool or fountain typically flows outward in the four cardinal directions (symbolic of God’s blessings flowing out to all corners of the world). There are lots of ways you could replicate this symmetry with paths, gravel and rills, but however you do, why not give yourself somewhere comfortable to sit around the middle? It’s the perfect place to engage in your own form of mindfulness.
Fire up the pit
The heat of the desert sun eventually gives way to the cold desert night… which is, of course, something that traditional riad designers account for. Furniture is often laid out around fire pits to keep guests warm throughout the night, but you could use a chiminea too.
Moroccan lanterns, in particular, have become quite popular in recent years, with some meant to be placed on the floor while others are hung from the ceiling. These lanterns are typically very ornate and are often intended to be a breath-taking centrepiece for the room, casting beautiful ambient lighting in all colours. My mum has a fantastic set of glass chandeliers that she actually bought in Morocco, used in the UK for a while and has now taken over to her traditional Spanish house, where they look sensational.
Moroccans have been applying these principles of garden design for centuries, turning uninspiring urban buildings into oases of serenity and comfort. Hopefully you can see some of the reasons why I find the style so enchanting, and will use some of these beautiful Morocco themed garden ideas to transform your own space into a garden of paradise.