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…)