One of the largest cacti farms in Africa is in Marrakech

Cactus Thiemann in Marrakech. Ph./ Olivier Metzger
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Twenty minutes from the old medina of Marrakech, not far from the Guéliz district built in the 1920s, lays a vast desert land. On a fence that does not seem to protect anything, a handwritten sign pointing down a rocky path indicates «Cactus».

«Cactus Thiemann» is a cactus crib of 6.88 hectares. More than 150 varieties stand in perfect rows, says the New York Times Travel. The garden was founded in the 1960s by Hans Thiemann, a German agricultural engineer whose family had for generations a passion for these slow-growing thorny plants.

Tired of cultivating them in a greenhouse, considering that the climate of the Moroccan desert was much more fertile than that of Europe, Thiemann then visited the painter Jacques Majorelle in 1950 to bring back specimens from the Majorelle Garden, and finally settled down in Morocco.

Since the death of Thiemann in 2001, the project is directed by his widow, Fatima, and his daughters, Magda and Roselinde.

Neoraimondia herzogiana is the favorite species of visitors. The oldest and largest specimen is the Plecycereus pringlei, which Thiemann brought with him by boat. It is now 7.92 meters high.

The two sisters are looking forward to opening a cafe in this cacti heaven. «Simple and wild,» says Magda: a few seats and a bit of shade, a place to sip tea and look into the prickly abyss.

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