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Moroccan Jews constitute an ancient community before even the foundation of Israel in 1948. Morocco had the largest Jewish community in the Muslim world. There were about 250,000 to 350,000 Jews in the country. But nowadays only about 2500 still living in Morocco. Jewish colonies existed in Morocco before the Roman.The Jewish community developed a fascinating tradition of rituals and pilgrimages to the tombs of holy sages. There are 13 such famous sites, centuries old, well kept by Muslims. Every year on special dates, crowds of Moroccan Jews from around the world, including Israel, throng to these graves. A unique Moroccan festival, the Mimouna, is celebrated in Morocco and in Israel. In addition to the Jewish communities, the major sites of pilgrimage for the Jewish traveler are the tombs of the holy sages, scattered around the country. The most popular are Rabbi Yehouda Benatar (Fez), Rabbi Chaim Pinto (Mogador), Rabbi Amram Ben Diwane (Achjen, Ouezzan), and Rabbi Yahia Lakhdar (Beni-Ahmed near settat).
This is a key factor in why Morocco is a perfect choice for Jewish travelers to take a customized Jewish Heritage Tour in Morocco. The following customized tour is our recommendation to explore the main Jewish heritage in Morocco. Global Morocco Exploration is your local agent offering personalized tours for Jewish travelers to explore the Jewish heritage in Morocco.
Jewish Heritage Tour includes visiting Synagogues, Cemeteries, Gardens, Mellahs, Tombs in each Imperial City and the rural regions. Jewish Heritage Tours can be tailor made to include Moroccan historic sites of great important such as the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca, the Mausoleum of Kings and Kasbah Oudaya in Rabat, the Universities and Mosques of UNESCO Fes, the Majorelle Gardens and Souks of Marrakech, along with a visit to Berber Villages and a Camel Trek in the Sahara Desert. Our recommendation is to blend things up to have a balance of both history, culture, and experiences throughout. We invite you to explore Morocco with our team – we’ll work harder than anyone to guarantee you have a great time in Morocco!
This route is fully customizable. We design each itinerary around you, so this suggested itinerary is a starting point that we can tweak or transform into something completely bespoke to you.
Arrive at Casablanca International Airport in the morning.
Visit the Museum of Moroccan Judaism in Casablanca, the first to be created in an Arab country, a museum of history and ethnography created by the Jewish Community of Casablanca in 1997 with the support of the Foundation of Jewish-Moroccan Cultural Heritage. It presents religious, ethnographic, and artistic objects that demonstrate the history, religion, traditions, and daily life of Jews in the context of Moroccan civilization. The museum exhibits paintings, photography, and sculpture by Jewish-Moroccan artists. Jewish-Moroccan objects like oil lamps, Torahs, Hanukkah lamps, clothing, Jewish marriage contracts (ketubot), and Torah covers are also on display, as well as rooms depicting a complete Moroccan Jewish Synagogue. For research purposes the Museum houses a document research library, a video library, and a photo library.
The Museum offers guided visits, seminars, and conferences on Jewish- Moroccan history and culture. On special request, it organizes group visits in Arabic, French, English, or Spanish.
Visit Casablanca’s Jewish Cemetery in the Mellah. It is open and quiet, with well-kept white stone markers in French, Hebrew, and Spanish. Hiloula is celebrated each year in Casablanca as well as prayer festival, at the tomb of the Jewish saint, Eliahou.
Visit the old Jewish Mellah of Casablanca where you can find kosher butchers in the old market. Yet no Jewish is still living there. They live in Casablanca centers where they worship in about 30 synagogues (Temple Beth El is the largest synagogue) eat in kosher restaurants, attend Jewish schools, and use social service centers. The Jewish heritage in Casablanca : synagogues, cemeteries, monuments, and communal institutions display how important the city has been to the Jewish community during the twentieth century.
Visit visit the Mosque of Hassan II, Casablanca's landmark building designed by the French architect Michel Pinseau. It is an extravagant symbol not only of the city, but also of Morocco itself. Hassan II Mosque is one of the largest mosque in the world with a gigantic glass floor for over 24000 worshippers. Its minaret is the world’s tallest at 210 meters. Its location looking out to the Atlantic gives it an exceptional beauty. Intricately carved marble pieces, vibrant mosaics and zellige tile details pay honor to traditional Islamic architecture, and yet still manage to feel contemporary.
Visit Temple Beth-El, the Jewish Synagogue in Casablanca. Beth-El, is regarded a witness of a once vibrant Jewish community. Its artistic elements fascinate many tourists.
Take the road to Rabat for a half-day tour of this Imperial City to learn Rabat’s history and enjoy its lovely domes, minarets and green spaces. Rabat is the capital city of Morocco and its second largest city. In 1146, the Almohad ruler Abd al-Mu'min turned Rabat into a full-scale fortress to use as a launching point for attacks on Iberia. In 1170, due to its military importance, Rabat acquired the title Ribatu l-Fath, meaning "stronghold of victory," from which it derives its current name.
Yaqub al-Mansur Almohad Caliph, moved the capital of his empire to Rabat. He built Rabat's city walls, the Kasbah of the Udayas and began construction on what would have been the world's largest mosque. However, Yaqub died and construction stopped. The ruins of the unfinished mosque, along with the Hassan Tower, still stand today.
Your guide will accompany you on a walk around the charming Almohad northern walls of the Oudaïa Kasbah. Then stroll the Musée de Oudaïa, Moulay Ismaïl’s palace exhibiting collections of Moroccan folk art.
Stop for lunch at a charming restaurant by the sea and then visit the Royal Palace and the Hassan tower which stands on the hill overlooking the Wadi Bou Regreg. Next visit the lovely Mausoleum of Mohammed V ornamented with stained glass windows and marble. Take the stairway leading to an remarkable dome
Spend the night at a Luxury hotel in Rabat.
Breakfast at your Riad and head the road to Tangier to learn about the history of Jews in Tangier
Tangier has always been referred to as the crossroads between Europe and Africa. Separated from Europe by some 14 kilometers, Tangier is the gateway to Morocco. The history of Tangier is one of many occupations by foreign powers and at one stage was divided up between the Americans, English, French and Spanish and this is reflected in the contrasting architecture within the city. Notable residents have included Paul Bowles, Barbara Hutton, Gavin Maxwell (Ring of Bright Water fame) and Malcolm Forbes, to name but a few.
The old town is quite small and can be seen in half a day. The most visited parts of Tangier are, the Kasbah, one of the city's main attractions, the Medina, Berber Markets, the Souks for shopping, The Grand and Petit Socco, the old American legation, Mendoubia Gardens.
We usually visit cemetery, synagogue and the Jewish Quarter (Mellah).
Vegetarian Lunch at a typical restaurant in Tangier is included during the tour . Continue to Cap Spartel that is frequently but incorrectly referred to as the northernmost point of Africa, which is instead Ras ben Sakka, Tunisia. It is the most North Western point of mainland Africa. The cap rises to a height of 326 m. at the top of Jebel Quebir where there is a tower. There is another tower nearer to the end of the cap which serves as a lighthouse.
Spend the night at a Luxury hotel in Tangier.
Breakfast at your hotel and drive to Tetouan, 50km from Tangier.
The Jews of Tetouan arrived with the Andalusian Arabs when they rebuilt the Medina in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries. They helped spread Andalusian culture in the territory. They have preserved Andalusian traditions and documents in Tétouan over the centuries.
The Medina has been called "the white dove", but also "the little Jerusalem". The Jewish cemetery of Tétouan is located in front of the Muslim cemetery. There has been great continuity in the Jewish presence in Morocco down through the ages. Jews settled in cities such as Tétouan, Fez, Tangier, Chefchauen, Asilah, Rabat, Marrakesh, Essaouira and also in rural areas such as the Rif.
Morocco is considered one of the few Arab countries to recognize the importance of Jewish culture to its identity. There are Moroccan Muslims and Moroccan Jews. The citizens of these two faiths are both considered Moroccans, and consider themselves Moroccans in all respects. They have a long history of living together.
At difficult times in the history of Morocco, the sultans of Morocco protected the Jews – as in the case of King Mohammad V during the Vichy government, when Morocco was a French protectorate. Hassan II and his son, the current king, have not changed their position towards the Jews.
The rights of Jews to practice their religion and to an education are enshrined in the Moroccan constitution. The Jews have their own schools, synagogues, etc., and many Jews who moved to Israel have kept their Moroccan traditions – music, cuisine and customs – alive there too.
Moreover, the Jews of Morocco are loyal to the king. Some have held important positions such as André Azoulay, economic advisor to King Hassan II and Mohammed VI. Others have held ministerial posts. Most Jews in Morocco speak the Moroccan Arabic dialect.
Visit Tetouan with its unique network of shaded alleyways. Continue to the biggest Jewish quarter of Morocco, the mellah Little Jerusalem. It is the most lively area after nightfall. Here, the souks are well separated, each trade occupying a precise perimeter.
Tarafin street, which is lined with jewellery shops, and continue to Hassan II square and the Royal Palace, a fine example of Hispano-Mauresque architecture. To the west, on the modern side, the new town, El Ensanche, can be found.Visit the
Follow your journey to Old medina part a UNISCO world heritage site that is rich of history. It was a pirates hub and once the capital of Spain's colony. The Romans destroyed the city at some point then was repopulated in the 16th century.
Have lunch at a vegetarian restaurant in the medina. Evening at leisure, B&B accommodation at a luxurious Riad in Tetouan
Rise and have your breakfast and take the road to the Bleu Pearl Chefchaouen located between the Rif Mountains at 60km from Tetouan. Upon arrival, check in your luxurious Riad in the old medina and start a guided visit of the town : the old medina, the Kasbah, the mellahs , Jewish cematry, Outa Hammam square ( the heart of the medina) and Ras el Mae.
Chefchaouen was founded in 1471, and shortly thereafter a wave of Jewish and Muslim refugees arrived from Andalusia, Spain. Jews lived alongside Muslims in Chefchaouen until 1760, when the local sultan ordered them to move into the medina. Jewish families built there, in the Andalusian style, and in all likelihood started adding indigo into the whitewash at this time in order to differentiate their houses from green-painted Muslim ones.
Like the mystical artists’ colony of Safed in Northern Israel where ancient doors and walls have been painted blue since the 1600s – a spiritual reminder of God in heaven, Morocco’s medina of Chefchaouen is awash in turquoise and lapis lazuli.
It’s here, amid twisted cobblestone streets and mountain air where the Jews and Moors escaping the Spanish Inquisition, settled in 1471. Those refugees built the Andalusian town of whitewashed walls and red-tiled roofs sequestered between the Rif Mountains. Beginning in the 1930’s more Jews escaping from Europe, took refuge here, painting the Chefchaouen village in striking hues of blue everywhere, including interiors- hence the sobriquet, the ‘Blue Pearl.’ Blue has always been a sacred color to the Jews as the Torah commanded them to weave a twisted thread of tekhelet into the fringes of their prayer shawls. After the WWII, most members of the Jewish community moved to Israel, however now the predominantly Muslim Berber residents continue the tradition and enjoy the yearly ritual of freshening up the village with new coats of vibrant blue paint.
Artist, Joyce Ozier was so astonished to discover the Jewish legacy of Chefchaouen. She devoted her abstract narrative paintings on nine large canvases entitled Blue Refuge opening at The Fazakas Gallery, Vancouver, Canada
Lunch at a nice restaurant serving vegetarian food. Chefchaouen, doesn’t have Kosher restaurant.
Enjoy an evening in the Big Square Outa Hamman while watching the busy life in the heart of the medina.
After breakfast take the road to Meknes, one of the city where the jews lived in and where the jewish legacy is still a witness on the Jewish heritage in this city
Jews lived in the region of Meknes before the arrival of Islam. A Hebrew inscription has been found and the remains of a synagogue were uncovered in the excavations of Volubilis, which is near Meknes. A "kinah" of Abraham Ibn Ezra mentions Meknes among the communities which suffered at the hands of the Almohads. A chronological note testifies that such persecutions occurred in 1140, and adds that in 1247, during the wars of the Merinids, many Jews lost their lives or were forcibly converted to Islam, while in the earthquake of 1340 "several courtyards caved in, as well as the synagogue and the Bet Ha-Midrash of rabbi Jacob."
According to traditions preserved in writing, the "Mahrit" synagogue, still existing in Meknes, was first built in the 13th century, destroyed in the earthquake of 1630 and rebuilt in 1646 by the Toledanos upon their arrival in Meknes. It is similarly stated that the "Tobi" synagogue was built in 1540. It would therefore seem that Jews already at that time lived in the present mellah areas as well as in the Medina in which an "Aaron Street" is, according to tradition, named after the then leader of the community. The Sharif Mulay Ismail (1672-1727), the real founder of the Alawid dynasty, moved his capital to Meknes and granted the Jews additional land for construction of buildings. The "Nagid" Abraham Maymeran and other wealthy Jews then built luxurious houses. Christian emissaries from Europe who stayed in them were astonished by their beauty. Near the Mellah, Ismail built a beautiful quarter for his officials and servants.
From then until the 19th century the community of Meknes was one of the best developed and organized in Morocco. It was a city of Chakhamim and authors, as well as merchants and men of action who frequently visited Tetuan, Sale, Rabat, and Fez on their affairs. The community was organized and its institutions functioned accordingly. The taxation on meat, wine, and other products constituted a source of income for the community, which with the addition of local donations, was able to supply the minimal requirements of the needy and those engaged in studies. The community maintained regular relations with Eretz Israel, whose emissaries returned home with considerable funds. The education of the children was entrusted to many teachers; at a more advanced age the youths were employed in the crafts or commerce, while the more talented pursued their studies in yeshivot.
As capital of the country and residence of the Sharifs (rulers) Meknes was also the center of Jewish activities at the court. The leaders of the Meknes community acted as Negidim of Moroccan Jewry and agents of the Sharifs. Among them were members of the Maymeran family (Joseph and his son Abraham), as well as the Toledanos, the Ibn Attars, the Ben Mamans, the Ben Quiquis, and others. The most prominent rabbinic scholars and dayyanim in Meknes during the 18th-- 20th centuries come from the Berdugo and Toledano families, many of whom wrote responsa.
During the 19th century Meknes lost its importance as the capital and the Jewish community also declined. There was an important change for the better in the situation of the Jews with the formal establishment of the French protectorate in 1912. From then on the Jews enjoyed relative security and economic stability, as well as elementary human rights. There were also changes in the field of religious education with the arrival of rabbi Ze'ev Halperin, a Russian scholar who came from Britain in 1912. He introduced reforms in the system of study of the yeshivot and gathered the young men of the town, for whom he founded a Kolel Avrekhim (advanced yeshivah), the first of its kind in Meknes and probably the whole of Morocco. He founded an Etz Chayyim society for laymen which organized regular studies and whose members supported the young men of the Bet El yeshivah with their contributions. As a result of this activity the yeshivah produced a nucleus of Chakhamim who later officiated as rabbis in Meknes and other communities. The fame of Meknes yeshivot spread far and they attracted students from many parts of the country.
After World War II, a Chabad yeshivah was founded (in conjunction with Otzar Ha-Torah).
The government allocated new areas near the mellah for the Jews to live in, and a new quarter, known as the "new Mellah," was built. The construction was modern, being scattered and not surrounded by a wall. Many beautiful synagogues were also built, including the beautiful "Toledano" and Joseph Marijin synagogues, as well as a large Jewish school, Em Ha-Banim, in which all the children of the community studied (the needy were exempted from the payment of tuition fees). Its expenses and the salaries of the teachers were provided from community funds. In 1947 approximately 1,200 pupils attended this school. The Alliance Israelite Universelle built two large schools, one for boys and another for girls, which were attended by about 1,500 boys and girls in 1950. According to the 1947 census the Jewish community numbered 15,482 (about 3,000 others were not included in the census for various reasons). This number decreased greatly after the establishment of the State of Israel.
The Jewish population of Meknes, which numbered 12,445 in the 1951 census report, dropped in 1960 to 10,894 (according to the census of that year), and in 1968, after the large-scale emigration of Moroccan Jewry, to about 2,000-3,000. During the 1950s the Jewish schools had 3,182 pupils, but the number dropped off in the 1960's. Most of the charitable and social welfare organizations, which included branches of WIZO and the World Jewish Congress, were closed. In 1970 the Meknes community, although reduced, was one of the more vital of the Moroccan provincial communities. A considerable Jewish petite bourgoisie lived there with communal life centering around the two main synagogues. Only a few dozen Jews remain in the old Mellah, and most live in the modern Jewish neighborhood.
After visiting both volubulis and Mekenes , spend the night at a luxurious riad in Meknes.
Have your breakfast and head the road to Fes to continue your expeditions of discovering the Jewish heritage in Fes.
Fez is located in the northeast part of Morocco between the Rif and the Middle Atlas positioned on the old crossroads of caravan routes connecting the Saharan empires with the Atlantic and the Mediterranean shipping lanes. Fez remained a commercial center for much of its history.
Fez was founded by Idriss I in the eighth century. His goal was to convert all his subjects to Islam, but his son and successor was more tolerant. Under Idriss II, the city expanded and Idriss surrounded the left bank with walls. After his death, further development was delayed until the 11th century when Prince Youseff Ibn Tachfine united both halves of the city and built a wall around Fez. This security inaugurated a prolonged period of prosperity that would peak in the 14th century under the reign of the Merinides Dynasty.
Jews played an important role in the commercial and cultural life of Morocco's capital city. Idriss II (808) admitted large numbers of Jews from Andalusia, whose commercial skills and wide regional contacts were instrumental in enriching his kingdom. They paid an annual tax of 30,000 dinars, an indication of their wealth. The influence they wielded and the respect they commanded are further demonstrated by a legendary tale that has been associated with the community. According to tradition, in 860, the ruler of Fez became obsessed with a young Jewish woman. He forced his way into a public bath in the Jewish quarter (al-Funduk al-Yahudi), where she was at the time. Though he was the most powerful person in the realm, his offense against the widely respected Jewish community caused a violent uprising throughout the town.
The golden age of the Jewish community in Fez lasted for nearly three hundred years. From the 9th to 11th centuries, its yeshivot (religious schools) attracted brilliant scholars, poets and grammarians. Sages such as Dunash Ibn Labrat, and Rabbi Isaac Alfasi spent most of their lives in Fez before they migrated to Spain. The invasions of the Almoravides and Almohades, fanatic Muslim sects, caused destruction and suffering to the Jewish community in Fez, just as it did throughout Andalusia. In fact, the most famous refugee from the Almohade terror in Fez was Moses Maimonides, who escaped with his family to Egypt in 1165. He had lived in Fez for five years after being uprooted from his home in Cordoba, Spain.
Depending on the ruling dynasty, Jewish life alternated between freedom and prosperity and merciless persecutions. During one such decline in 1438, the Jews were forced to live in a special Jewish quarter situated on the site referred to as the mellah in New Fez. Mellah is Arabic for salt, and the community got the name because the Jews were forced to salt the heads of executed prisoners prior to their public display. And yet, the sultan turned to the Jews of Fez to help straighten out the public finances. When he appointed a Jew as Prime Minister in 1465, the town rose up in anger, assassinated the sultan and his minister and massacred most of the Jewish community. In 1492, the influx of Spanish exiles reinvigorated the community and it managed to survive. Ironically, the Spanish exiles and the Jewish natives of Fez feuded often. Eventually, the Spanish newcomers gained the upper hand, and many of their customs became the minhag of the community and they held the office of nagid established at the beginning of the 16th century.
As Fez declined in political and economic importance in the late 16th century, many wealthy Jews left Fez. New Jewish arrivals to Fez from Dila brought diversity to the Jewish community, however much of its Spanish character was lost. During this period, Jews were involved in manufacturing gold thread, lace, embroidery and many were tailors or metalworkers.
Visit Fez Synagogue. In 1790, Jewish synagogues were destroyed, and the Jews were expelled from the city. They were allowed to return in 1792, however the community had diminished significantly.
In the 1800's, Jewish learning was revived, and a number of Jewish schools opened, including 5 yeshivot.
A revolt broke out in 1912, two weeks after the French protectorate was founded. The Jewish community was ransacked and their property was burned. In 1925, most of the Jews left the old Jewish quarter and settled in the new sections of Fez. The Jewish population reached 22,000 in 1947. It decreased significantly during the 1950's and 1960's when many Jews emigrated to Israel, France, and Canada, and by the 1990s, fewer than 10,000 remained.
In 1997, Morocco had a Jewish population of 6,500; of that, 5,000 Jews lived in Casablanca and only 150 lived in Fez.
Visit the The mellah, along with the cemetary enclosed within, remains of the the most prominent Jewish features of the city today. There are no functioning synagogues in the Jewish quarter at the moment, but with UNESCO funds, several are being restored. One such building attached the cemetary is currently being used as a museum to house Jewish artifacts and memorabilia. In addition to the mellah, traces of Fez's Jewish past can also be seen in the heart of the old city (Fez I-bali), where one of the districts is named funduq I-yihud, which literally means "hostel/warehouse of the Jews."
The Jewish Mellah of Fes is over 650 years old. This picturesque neighborhood adjoins the royal palace, noted for its recently constructed bright brass doors. Jews took shelter in this palace during the 1912 pogrom. The nearby Jewish Cemetery contains the tombs of more Jewish saints than any other cemetery in Morocco. One of the more important saints is Lalla Solica, who was killed for refusing to convert to Islam. Solica was born in Tangier in 1817. At the age of 16, she was courted by a Muslim man, but refused to marry him. To force her hand, the man went to the caid, the local government official. The man told the caid that Solica could not refuse his offer of marriage because she was no longer Jewish, having converted to Islam of her own free will. When called before the caid, she refused to acknowledge having converted. The Sultan called her to Fes, where she again denied her conversion. As a result, she was condemned to death for apostasy and killed in 1834.
Throughout the old city of Fes, there are traces of ancient Jewish life, including the home of Maimonides, who lived in the city from 1159 to 1165. Suffering from the persecutions of the Almohad dynasty, Maimonides emigrated to escape forced conversion.
In the face of a declining population, the Jewish community of Fes is working hard to maintain its community spirit and preserve its heritage and traditions. The community center, Centre Communautaire Maimonide, is one of the most well organized in Morocco, with a kosher restaurant and modern synagogue on the premises.
Visit the Ibn Danan Synagogue – the oldest existing synagogue in Fes. The Ibn Danan synagogue One of the oldest and most important synagogues in North Africa. Originally built and owned by a prominent Moroccan Jewish family in the mid-seventeenth century and renovated in its present form at the end of the nineteenth century. The structure, located in the hearth of the mellah (Jewish quarter) is a rare survivor of a pivotal time in Moroccan Jewish history.
The synagogue, still privately owned, contains perhaps the only complete set of Moroccan synagogue fittings in existence, including the reader’s wooden and wrought iron canopy platform – the tevah, on the west side, the twin wooden-carved Arks for the Torah – the hechal, built-in on the east side ornamented tiled wall. The wooden benches and chairs including Elija’s Chair (for the circumcision ceremony), the oil lamps and embroidered hangings.
Entrance to the synagogue is through an unobtrusive door to a small vestibule leading to a two-nave prayer hall divided by three octagonal piers. The floor is tiled in green and white glazed brick in a herringbone pattern. There were once numerous electric and oil-burning lamps, including memorial lamps, but these have somehow disappeared.
The Rabbi Shlomo ibn Danan Synagogue is one of the oldest and most intact synagogues in Morocco. This synagogue, located in the heart of the Mellah, is a rare survivor of a pivotal time in Moroccan Jewish history. Spend the night at boutique Riad in Fez medina
Breakfast at your riad in Fes and then take the road to Sefrou which is south of Fez. It was known as Little Jerusalem due to its high percentage of Jews and its well-developed religious life. Upon Morocco's independence, a rabbi from Sefrou was elected to Parliament. Sefrou's mellah makes up half of the old city. Jews made up almost half the population. While there were no more than 5,000 Jews in Sefrou in 1948, they lived only in the mellah. The population density of the Jewish community at that time was 415,815 per square kilometer, the highest in the country. To cope with the high population density, most buildings have three stories, with balconies facing the street. Just outside the mellah is a large but now vacant home and school for Jewish orphans that was administered by the Moroccan organization, Em Habonim, and funded by the London Jewish Community. A simple synagogue is contained in the complex.
Sefrou's main Jewish cemetery is being restored using funds from those who have emigrated. Historic headstones have been mounted within cement monuments. Several monuments commemorate a large number of merchants who died in a truck accident on the road south to the Tafilalet region. Others honor the 21 victims of the flood of 1950. Sefrou has several saints, including Moshe Elbaz, the Masters of the Cave, Eliahou Harraoch, and David Arazil.
Sefrou used to be a cultural crossroads where Jews and Muslims, Berbers and Arabs peacefully coexisted for centuries. This cultural mosaic led numerous American anthropologists, notably Clifford Geertz, to choose Sefrou for their field research. For much of its history, Sefrou had been one of a handful Moroccan villages with a high percentage of Jewish population. By the time of Moroccan independence in 1956, Jews still composed a third of Sefrou’s population, about 5,000 living in the small Mellah. Only a few remain there since the mass exodus of Morocco’s Jews in the 1960s and early 1970s. The Jewish Mellah is now inhabited by Muslims and the property left behind is taken care of by them.
Visit the orphanage named Em Habanim (“Mother of the Boys”), situated just outside the Mellah in an enclosed compound. The orphanage had been part of the Em Habanim network of Jewish Moroccan schools, established in 1912 by a group of Jewish women. The first school and orphanage was established in Fez and the Sefrou school was inaugurated in 1917. It provided elementary education to Jewish children for five decades. Today, the place is deserted for the most part.
Visit the orphanage’s synagogue, which is well conserved and comprises a small library of Hebrew prayer books (Sidurim) as well as some books in French. The pastel-colored walls and decorations hint at the identity of its original residents. A short clip from a 1997 documentary film by director David Assulin, called Haaretz Hamuvtahat (The Promised Land) contains original footage, apparently from the 1950s, representing Jewish boys eating and praying at the school.
Sefrou used to be called the ‘Garden of Morocco’ – it was the city with the highest concentration of Jews in North Africa. The city was renowned for it’s gardens, cherry orchards, artisans, earthenware, and metalwork. The architecture in the Sefrou medina is unique in Morocco as the narrow streets of the Mellah were intentionally made narrow so that the medina could easily be secured and defended. The wooden balconies of the Mellah are also distinctive
visit the Jewish quarter (the Mellah).
The Jewish school (Alliance Israelite) of Em Habanim and the Synagogue of Sefrou.
Visit to the saints of Moche Elbaz, Eliahou Harraoch and David Arazil.
Evening Service at Synagogue in the Ville Nouvelle (new town) of Fes and Dinner at the Rabbi’s home. (Possible only on Friday evening)
Spend the night at a boutique riad in Fez
Marrakesh, one of the former capitals of *Morocco, situated at the foot of the High Atlas Mountains. They city was founded in the latter half of the 11th century by the *Almoravid dynasty. A Jewish community was established there soon thereafter, coming from different parts of southern Morocco. Many were subsequently barred from inhabiting the city while others were persecuted by the *Almohads in the 12th century and had to disperse. A Jewish community was revived there during the course of the 13th century but Jews faced further persecution, death, and expulsion. Only under the Merinid dynasty in the latter half of the 13th and 14th centuries were Jews permitted to resettle in Marrakesh and their numbers grew in the late 15th century through the arrival of Sephardi refugees expelled from the Iberian Peninsula. Nevertheless, the main group of Marrakeshi Jews originated from the Atlas Mountains. Iberian Jews (Spanish and Portuguese), however, took control of communal affairs. From 1557 onward, the Sa'di dynasty concentrated all the Jews in a Jewish quarter of their own, known as the mellah. While the Jewish community numbered approximately 25,000 in mid-16th century, thousands perished throughout that century in epidemics. The Sa'di sultans, who were descendants of the Prophet *Muhammad and originated from the Arabian Peninsula, enlisted the Jews of Marrakesh as their trade agents and entrusted to them the management of local industries. With the ascendance of the Alawite dynasty in the latter half of the 17th century, its sultans, also descendants of the Prophet, did not always display tolerance toward the Jews of Morocco. This was evidently the case with Sultan Mulay Isma'il, who in the 1670s exposed the Jews of Marrakesh to horrible atrocities.
In the 18th century Marrakesh lost its status as the central capital of Morocco in favor of *Fez. Notwithstanding, commercially and economically, the city preserved its position as a vital center for southern Morocco. There were flourishing yeshivot in Marrakesh and bustling activity by talmudic scholars belonging to the prominent Corcos and Pinto families, as well as kabbalists. The Jews under the Alawite sultans in the late 18th and throughout much of the 19th centuries played a preponderant role in the local economy and their social and political situation improved markedly. There were efforts by fanatical Muslim leaders to forcibly convert Jews to Islam, but the intervention of international Jewish organizations such as the Paris-based *Alliance Israélite Universelle (which also opened schools in Marrakesh at the beginning of the 20th century) and European consuls stationed in Morocco, foiled their efforts.
Under the leadership of Si Madani al-Glawi, the governor of Marrakesh and its environs, who belonged to the "great families" connected with the Alawite dynasty and the makhzan (Moroccan government), the Jews of southern Morocco enjoyed much influence. In 1908–09, while entrusted by the makhzan to bolster Alawite influence in the south and Marrakesh, Glawi, who then served as the sultan's chief minister (grand wazir), bestowed on the Marrakeshi Jewish elite considerable economic and social privileges. He also lifted exorbitant taxes imposed on the Jews of Marrakesh and Taroudant in the period immediately preceding his rise to power. Glawi maintained intimate social and economic ties with the leader of the Jewish community in Marrakesh – the illustrious Joshua Corcos of the influential *Corcos family. The latter community president was perhaps the most important Moroccan Jewish leader in many centuries.
Under French colonial domination (1912–1956), in which the French protectorate collaborated with the Alawite dynasty in managing Moroccan affairs, the position of the Jews improved immeasurably. They were now exposed to modern ideas through French education, employment in private and public administration, and the liberal professions. Zionist influences penetrated the community in the interwar years like other political currents prevalent in the modern Jewish world.
Until 1920 the Jewish quarter of Marrakesh was the largest in Morocco. The 1920s and 1930s changed this. Although the Jewish population of Marrakesh was greater than in Fez or *Tangier, *Casablanca on the Atlantic coast emerged steadily as the largest and most important Jewish community through internal migrations from all parts of the country. Thus, if in 1912, 15,700 Jews dwelt in Marrakesh (compared to 7,000 in Casablanca), and 25,646 in 1936 (compared to 38,806 in Casablanca), in 1951, five years before the end of French colonial presence, the Jews of Marrakesh numbered 18,500 whereas Casablanca Jewry was 75,000 strong. The reason for the decline in the Marrakeshi Jewish population was attributed to internal migration to Casablanca and other coastal cities and to aliyah under the auspices of the Jewish Agency. As in other major Moroccan cities, Jewish bodies such as the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the ORT vocational network, the Alliance Israélite Universelle, educational departments of Oẓar ha-Torah, and the Jewish Agency extended their activities and offered vital services. These efforts either helped those Jews who stayed behind to improve their lot, or facilitated their integration into French, Canadian, and Israeli societies. In 2005, there were several dozen Jews left in Marrakesh.
MOGADOR, now known as Essaouira, an Atlantic seaportin western *Morocco, midway between the towns of *Safi and *Agadir. The word Mogador is a corruption of the Berber term for "self-anchorage." The city was occupied by the Phoenicians and Carthaginians in the 5th century B.C.E. From the Middle Ages to the 17th century there were sugar-cane refineries in the vicinity of Mogador whose operation was brought to a halt in the latter half of the 18th century. The town became a bustling seaport in 1764 under the Alawite Sultan Sidi Muhammad ibn Abdullah, who sought to transform it into a rival port to Agadir and have it serve as his main port for international commerce. The most important Moroccan Jewish merchant families from *Tangier, Agadir, *Marrakesh, and parts of northern Morocco were recruited by the sultan to take charge of developing trade activity and relations in Mogador vis-à-vis Europe.
The sultan chose 10 or 12 of them, especially from the Corcos, Afriat, Coriat, Knafo, Pinto, and Elmaleh families, for the task and granted them the status of tujjār al-sultān (the "king's merchants"). In sharp contrast to ordinary Jews who dwelt in the cramped Jewish *ghetto (*mellah), the sultanate offered them the most luxurious dwellings of Mogador within the more prestigious casbah quarter. They not only became the leading merchants of the sultan's court – parallel to a tiny elite of Muslim tujjār – but were entrusted with the role of mediation and diplomacy with European consuls and entrepreneurs. Not only were they influential in Moroccan economic affairs, but their functions extended to include the leadership of the local Jewish community. From their ranks the Jews chose the tujjār as presidents, vice presidents, and treasurers. The extraordinary and privileged Jewish tujjār elite controlled all of the major imports of Mogador and other Moroccan trade centers where their influence was gradually extended. These included sugar, tea, metals, gunpowder, and tobacco. The tujjār also managed such vital exports as wheat, hides, cereals, and wool, items which became government monopolies at the time, resulting from the makhzan's fears of the political and social consequences of European penetration. Some tujjār were in fact dispatched by the Palace to European trade centers as economic attachés and were given interest-free loans to undertake major trade transactions and augment the sultan's profits. Unlike the rest of the Jews, they were not required to pay the traditional poll-tax (jizya) commonly imposed on non-Muslim minorities throughout the Muslim world, and they received full protection – legal and political – from the makhzan (Moroccan government) from those in Muslim society who sought to harass or undermine them. The tujjār declined in influence after the 1890s with the aggressive penetration of the European powers into the Sharifian Empire of Morocco. By the early part of the 20th century, and certainly following the formation of the French protectorate (1912), they disappeared from the scene. A new elite of Jewish entrepreneurs, recruited by the French, Spaniards, Italians, and British commercial houses replaced them, as did foreign merchants who settled in Mogador and other parts of the country, controlling commerce until Moroccan independence in 1956.
Spiritually and religiously, the Mogador community was led over the years by the old established rabbis and *dayyanim such as Abraham Coriat, Abraham b. Attar, Mas'ud Knafo, and Haim Pinto. Mogador Jewry was relatively well educated. Their musicians were renowned throughout Morocco. The town had exceptionally beautiful synagogues, with the community being dotted by numerous battei midrash and yeshivot. As British influence in Mogador became particularly dominant from the 18th century, English schools flourished there, including those of the London-based Anglo-Jewish Association and the Board of Deputies for British Jewry. The schools helped spread the English language and culture among the Jews. The French-based *Alliance Israélite Universelle also opened schools for boys and girls in Mogador. As British influence declined in the town after 1912, the Alliance schools and those of the Protectorate, which propagated French influences, emerged supreme and oriented local Jews toward new cultural currents. By the mid-1950s, on the eve of large-scale Jewish immigration to Israel and the West, most young men and women spoke French in addition to the Moroccan Judeo-Arabic dialect.
During the 19th century the Jewish population grew from 4,000 in the 1830s and 1840s to approximately 12,000 in 1912, only to decline to 6,150 in 1936 and to once again rise slightly to 6,500 in 1951. This is attributed to the decline of commerce and other economic activity during the French Protectorate era in Mogador (and other inland or coastal cities which in the past enjoyed prosperity) in favor of Casablanca and Agadir. The immigration trends of the 1950s and 1960s caused the Mogador community to dwindle. Once Morocco's most important commercial seaport, a phenomenon largely attributed to Jewish initiatives, Mogador became a sleepy and relatively unimportant town. In the early 1970s most of its Jewish community members resided in the Americas, Europe, and Israel. By 2005, the community had all but disappeared
Breakfast at your hotel in Marrakesh and drive to The city of Mazagan and Azemmour town.
Al Jadida or Mazagan is a port city on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, located 106 km south of the city of Casablanca. The Portuguese Fortified City of Mazagan was registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, on the basis of its status as an "outstanding example of the interchange of influences between European and Moroccan cultures" and as an "early example of the realisation of the Renaissance ideals integrated with Portuguese construction technology". According to UNESCO, the most important buildings from the Portuguese period are the cistern, and the Manueline Church of the Assumption.
Continue to Azemmour a city located on the Atlantic coast of Morocco. During the 15th century it was a free city with 20,000 inhabitants, of whom 2,500 were Jews, mainly occupied as fishermen and craftsmen, and including wealthy merchants. Exiles from Portugal in 1496 found refuge there. It was subsequently raided by the Spanish, but the Jews were afforded protection by the Portuguese, who occupied Azemmour in 1513 without bloodshed. A grant of privileges was conferred on the Jews on June 14, 1514, which also fixed their annual tax payment. Joseph Adibe was appointed rabbi of Azemmour and invested with wide powers (c. 1512). The community flourished and prominent members included the families of Adibe, *Roti, Valensi, Buros, Rodrigues, and Cordilha. Numerous *Marranos were welcomed in Azemmour and enabled to go to the interior where they could return to the Jewish faith. The community supported financially and diplomatically the pretensions of David Ha-*Reuveni when he arrived in Portugal in 1525. Azemmour was captured by the Moors in 1541; during the siege John III ordered the evacuation of all Jewish non-combatants to Arzila, and compensated them for the losses they had incurred. A community was reestablished in 1780. Most of the more wealthy members immigrated to Mazagan c. 1820, after the sultan ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn Hishām permitted Jews to trade there. Only the Jewish craftsmen remained in Azemmour, which continued to have a Jewish population until the emigration from Morocco after 1948. In 1968 there were no Jewish inhabitants in the town.
Walk through the Medina : Enter the medina and enjoy a walk through the history of this quiet city. You’ll find the remnants of the Portuguese walls and ramparts to explore with great views. In the medina, you’ll find the old Kasbah (castle) built by the Portuguese (16th century) with its 6 towers and original cannons. Also visible are the remains of the mosque (which predate the castle) as well as the castle’s prison and 2 towers. The most significant structure is the Dar El Baroud tower which is all that remains of the gunpowder storage.
Visit the Jewish Mellah : The Jewish section of the medina provides a look back into their history in Morocco. The Jews of Azemmour were mainly made up of exiles from Portugal who found refuge there in 1496 and included fishermen, craftsmen as well as some wealthy merchants. The community flourished under the later Portuguese occupation in 1513 and those Jews who had been forced to convert to Christianity (marranos) were allowed to go to the interior (Fes) where they could return to their Jewish faith.
Later when the town was taken back by the Moors, the Jews were sent to Asilah and were even compensated for their losses by John III of Portugal. Although a local community was re-established in 1780, most of the wealthier merchants ended up in Mazagan (El Jadida). Within the Jewish Mellah, you will find the tomb and shrine of the Jewish saint, Rabbi Abraham M0ul Niss (Mulannes) and a synagogue.
This is not a verified or documented story, but the story told about the saint has him arriving in 1870 from Israel and then later in the 1930s, during the French Protectorate, the French Governor had a sick daughter who was brought to the Rabbi. The young girl was healed from her sickness and people began to repopulate and revitalize the Jewish quarter of the medina, thus the Rabbi’s name became ‘Moul Niss’ or translated ‘Leader of people.’ A festival or moussem is held each August at the tomb (according to online reports but not verified). There is also the Jewish cemetery to visit which testifies to this community now gone.
Overnight in a luxuary hotel In el Jadida