Morocco’s rich Jewish heritage is a unique piece of history that is unknown to most travelers – and that in itself is reason enough to explore it on your next holiday to this exotic country. Although Jews historically lived in mellahs (or Jewish Quarters) in a number of Moroccan cities, including Fez and Marrakech, a majority of the Jewish population in Morocco today resides in Casablanca today. It is here that you will be able to find a thriving Jewish community along with a host of relevant monuments, communal spaces, kosher restaurants, cemeteries, shrines, and museums. One of the most impressive sights is the Museum of Moroccan Judaism (Musée du Judaisme Marocain) and often simply called the Moroccan Jewish Museum, this museum in Casablanca a one-of-a-kind history and ethnography institute dedicated to past, present, and even future life of Jewish life in Morocco. (more…)
Many visitors to Morocco are surprised to learn of the country’s cultural diversity. Although today a majority Arab Muslim country, Morocco has a significant Jewish past (and present) as well as indigenous Amazigh (also known as Berber) population who pre-date the Arab immigration.
Historically, Morocco has strived to be a place of acceptance. Several different cultures and religions have inhabited its cities and towns throughout the centuries. Today, the majority of its population is Muslim but it is not hard to find a wide array of remnants of the country’s Jewish heritage throughout its many cities. Most Jews immigrated to Morocco in the 15th century following the Spanish Reconquista which pushed out the entire Jewish population from the Iberian Peninsula. They established themselves in mellahs (or Jewish Quarters), that were often found in a corner of the city fortified by Kasbah walls for protection. These mellahs became a city within a city for the Jews with their own synagogues, fountains, and markets lining narrow streets and alleyways.
Several Jewish Quarters still survive today with their synagogues and Jewish cemeteries and can easily be found within large cities such as Marrakech and Fez. But a trip off the beaten path can also be extremely rewarding. Towns such as Sefrou and Chefchaouen have beautifully preserved unique mellahs that can easily be explored from one of the main Moroccan cities. (more…)
Morocco was once home to the largest population of Jews in the Arab world, a figure topping 300,000 inhabitants. These people left behind a vast history visible through the ancient Jewish sites of Morocco. Today the number has largely diminished but many of the historical sites have remained intact and offer a glimpse into a part of Moroccan culture that is unique to the region. While the relationship between Muslim and Jewish residents has had ups and downs, the legacy and richness of Morocco’s Jewish population remains a national treasure. (more…)
I have always been drawn to and interested in the Jewish history and culture of Morocco. And, while I am by far not an expert, once you’ve been in Morocco awhile, one begins to uncover some fantastic and even hidden places where the Diaspora once lived, traded, mingled, mixed, and even thrived. It’s here where I’ll try to take you on a journey to some of my favorite places while trying to uncover some interesting historical tidbits of Judaism in Morocco. For the most part, this trip follows our Eclectic or Fez to Marrakesh and Sahara itineraries.