Morocco is a destination for travelers of all stripes, including those who want to explore the kingdom’s deep Jewish heritage tour in Morocco roots.
NEW YORK – With its mountains and desert, beach resorts, and Berber villages, Morocco is a treat for travelers of all stripes, including those who want to explore the kingdom’s deep Jewish roots.
The Jewish heritage tour in Morocco goes back more than 2,000 years. Before Israel was founded in 1948, they were estimated at about 275,000, considered the largest Jewish community in the Muslim world, said Roy Mittelman, director of the Jewish Studies Program at City College. NEW YORK.
Today, after huge waves of departures over the years, only about 2,000 Jews remain in Casablanca and about 500 in other parts of Morocco, but the Jewish presence is still alive in many places. For example, the Museum of Moroccan Judaism in the Casablanca suburb is the only museum of Judaism in the Arab world.
Jews of Moroccan origin in Israel and around the world often return to the North African kingdom, and some have second homes in family regions. Jewish heritage tour in Morocco are numerous and easy to follow. Most towns have a mellah, which is the old Jewish quarter, as well as Jewish cemeteries and synagogues.
Mittelman, who has spent 40 years soaking up Jewish history, culture, and religious practices in Morocco, leads groups of students on tours of Jewish sites in an advanced seminar. There is much to read before visiting, he said.
He recommends Shlomo Dessens’ The Mella Society: Jewish Community Life in Sheriff Morocco for more information about pre-colonial Morocco, based on the writings of Jewish Moroccan sages of the 18th and 19th centuries.
To learn more about the spiritual history of the Jewish quarter in Marrakech, he recommends a travelogue by Bulgarian Jewish writer Elias Canetti, Voices of Marrakech: A Record of a Visit. Mittelman has honed his travel itineraries over the years.
The last Moroccan Jewish day school, Neve Shalom, is in Casablanca, which is the economic and business center of the kingdom. Ask director Jacky Sebbag. Watch children playing in the courtyard, enjoy them singing Jewish songs and learn more about the school’s Hebrew lessons and Bible study, Mittelman said.
Visit the Tahiti Beach Club, once a local Jewish hangout.
Among Mittelman’s walking tours of Jewish residential areas in Casablanca stop at Beth El and Eim Habanim synagogues. There is also a newer synagogue, David Ha-Melech, in Toni, the coastal neighborhood of Corniche, near the beach club.
Casablanca, like other cities, has a traditional kosher bakery and kosher restaurants.
There are just over 100 Jews left in Marrakech, including a handful who live in the old Jewish quarter, but the mellah is noisy, Mittelman said.
Among the synagogues that remain in the tiny blue-and-white Lazama along a narrow street. Ask a local how to find it. Visitors can enter for a small fee. For weary travelers, there is a cozy riad-style courtyard with a fruit tree and some chairs.
The original synagogue dates to 1492, but it was later rebuilt. The synagogue’s Torah scrolls were written on gazelle parchment, according to the Muslim synagogue manual. Visitors can glimpse Lazamas Mikveh, a traditional Jewish ritual bath that descends winding stone steps.
Mella is not the only place for synagogues. Go to a new part of Geliz, with a strong European influence, for Sabbath services at Temple Beth El Synagogue. Any cab driver should know how to get there.
Two hours south of Marrakech is the small town of Anonim, where the mysterious rabbi and healer Wazana once lived.
For another day trip from Marrakech, visit a Jewish heritage tour in Morocco sites in Essaouira, once a thriving Jewish center and former Portuguese fishing town. It was also a stop for the 1960s and ’70s rock stars who made pilgrimages to Marrakech. Built in the 1700s, the town has a synagogue, cemetery, and shopping center with signs pointing to buildings where ancient, long-gone synagogues once stood.
Mittelman’s special attraction is the tomb of Holy Rabbi Chaim bin Diwan, located just over an hour south of Marrakech. Jews still gather at this site in the high Atlas Mountains in the village of Tagadirt Nbour near Anhaz for the traditional celebration of the hilula of his life.
Mittelman leads groups up the hill to picnic near the grave.
This is our little pilgrimage site. You see the mountains around you, and you hear the wind coming through the mountains. It’s an incredible experience, he said.
The city had a large Jewish community in the 17th century, as well as the famous Ibn Danan Orthodox synagogue. Once crumbling, it was rebuilt in the 1990s with help from the World Monuments Fund and American Express. King Mohammed VI pledged to revive Jewish monuments throughout Morocco.
The mela here is a maze within the walls. You get lost, and that’s half the fun. This was the first mela in Morocco, dating back to about 1438.
In addition to the Jewish cemetery, where a couple of prominent medieval rabbis are buried, Fez has a site considered sacred among women, the tomb of Solika. With another surname, Solika was — according to one retelling — a Jewish woman of extraordinary beauty who was beheaded in 1834 for refusing to accept Islam.
Maimonides, one of the most prolific and influential Torah scholars of the Middle Ages, lived in Fez from 1159 to 1165. His stone house with weathered engravings marking the place is worth a stop.
In the Glushes.
If you prefer this style of travel, Mittelman said, you should have no problem in small towns and villages tracing Jewish influence and history.
Find your first 80-year-old old man and tell me if you remember the Jews here? Chances are they’ll say yes, and here are their names, and here’s that crumbling house where they used to live.
A 10-day Jewish Heritage Tour in Morocco, Synagogues, and Communities
For first-time visitors to Morocco who are interested in Jewish heritage, this tour is entertaining and enlightening. Historic synagogues, holy tombs, attractive markets, spice souks, breathtaking scenery, and Andalusian gardens are all worth seeing. Visit the African Jewish Museum, which is the only one in the Muslim world. On the Sabbath, attend Jewish services and Shabbat dinner at a historic Jewish residence. This authentic 10-day Jewish Heritage Tour in Morocco gives the best of Jewish travel experiences.
ABOUT THE JEWISH HERITAGE TOUR IN MOROCCO: A 10-DAY PRIVATE TRAVEL EXPERIENCE
Morocco’s cultural richness reflects its historical position as a crossroads between Europe and the rest of the world. Morocco’s Jewish Heritage provides tourists with an opportunity to learn about ancient historical traditions, customs, architecture, monuments, and sites that have long been a part of Moroccan culture. The Jewish Heritage Morocco Tour from Travel Exploration is designed for discerning tourists. This tour includes visits to historic synagogues, cemeteries, architectural buildings, and the natural environs of the region, as well as opportunities to attend Jewish Shabbat services and dine at a Rabbi’s residence.
Day 1: Arrival in Casablanca, Jewish Heritage Site Tour, and Guided City Tour
Arrival at Mohammed V Airport in Casablanca. Dinner at Casablanca’s Kosher Restaurant. Visit Casablanca’s Jewish Synagogue, Temple Beth-El. Beth-El is remembered as the heart of a once-thriving Jewish community. Tourists flock to this synagogue because of its stained glass windows and other artistic features. If time permits, visit Temple Em Habanim and Neve Chalom.
Day 2: Tour Casablanca’s Jewish Heritage, then Follow the signs to Rabat.
In Casablanca, go to the Moroccan Judaism Museum. The Jewish Museum in Casablanca is the first of its sort in the Arab world, covering 700 square meters. Casablanca’s Museum of Moroccan Judaism is a history and ethnography museum founded in 1997 by the Jewish Community of Casablanca with the support of the Foundation of Jewish-Moroccan Cultural Heritage. The Jewish Museum in Casablanca, which is the Arab region’s only Jewish Museum, is tucked away in a residential neighborhood and is a treasure trove. Its national and international collections are conserved to world-class standards. The Museum of Moroccan Judaism exhibits religious, anthropological, and artistic artifacts that illustrate the history, religion, traditions and daily life of Moroccan Jews.
Day 3: En route to Fes, take a guided historical tour of Rabat and a city visit.
Visit Rabat before continuing on to Meknes and the Volubilis Roman Ruins.
Visit the Royal Palace and the Hassan Tower, which overlooks the Wadi Bou Regreg from a hilltop. It is a massive mosque that is symbolic of Rabat and is known for its unfinished minaret, which is home to storks. Visit Mohammed V’s stunning Mausoleum, which features stained glass windows, white marble, and a wrought-iron entryway with a stairway leading to an amazing dome, right next door. Visit the Jewish Mellah, which houses just a few Jewish households today.
Visit the Palace of Rabat and the Necropolis at Chellah/ Kasbah of Chellah and Kasbah Oudaya, as well as the adjacent gardens. Option to visit Rabbi Hayyim Ben Moses Attar’s birthplace, the beach village of Sale. Attar was an 18th-century Kabbalist who was born in Morocco in 1696 and was well-known throughout the Jewish community for his mystical Bible exegesis.
Take the journey to Meknes’ Imperial City, “the Moroccan Versailles,” and Volubilis’ Roman Ruins, “Walili.”
Explore the Jewish Mellah & Quarter, with its winding alleyways and vibrant courtyards. The importance of Jewish history can be seen in Hebraic epitaphs from the Christian era. These epitaphs, as well as Greek inscriptions, may be found on the Meknes Jewish zaouia, a pilgrimage site where Rabbi David Benmidan’s grave still stands.
Meknes has a long Jewish history. An ancient Hebraic epitaph from the Christian era can be found there. The burial of Rabbi David Benn Imdan, “the patron of Meknes,” is still marked by Greek inscriptions on the synagogue. Each street is named after prominent Jewish Rabbis and other prominent Jews who once lived in the city.
In total, eleven synagogues remain in Meknes, none of which are now in operation. During your guided Jewish Heritage Tour in Meknes, you may see 1-2, as well as the local cemetery and a Jewish school.
Day 4: Tour of UNESCO World Heritage Sites and Jewish Heritage Sites in Fes
Visit Jewish and Muslim Historic Sites in Fes: On this UNESCO Fes guided historical tour, you will visit Jewish Heritage Sites and Cultural Sites, including Synagogues, Universities, Mosques, Cemeteries, the Mellah, gardens, and palaces. Your guide will serve as a conduit between Moroccan Muslims and Jews.
Fes Guided Excursion to Jewish Seffrou on Day 5
Visit Sefrou, the cherry capital. Sefrou, south of Fes, was dubbed “Little Jerusalem” because of its substantial Jewish population and well-developed religious life. A rabbi from Sefrou was elected to Parliament after Morocco’s independence. The mellah of Sefrou encompasses half of the historic city.
Make a brief halt en route to Sefrou to visit Bhalil, a cemetery.
Sefrou was originally a prominent hub for Moroccan Jews, and their buildings with wooden balconies may still be seen in the walled white pedestrian medina.
In Morocco, the city of Sefrou is an excellent example of interfaith collaboration. In Sefrou, Muslims and Jews lived side by side and performed their religious ceremonies in synchrony.
Day 6: Fes to Marrakech departure via Ifrane and Beni Mellal
Travel to Marrakech by road.
Stop along the way to see the vista of Ifrane University and take a stroll through the garden. For its architecture, cedar forest, and winter ski resort possibilities, Ifrane is known as Morocco’s “Little Switzerland.” This Moroccan town has a stunning European appearance, as if it were an Alpine village, and was developed by the French during the protectorate era for their administration due to its Alpine climat. The town experiences snow in the winter and a chilly climate in the summer because of its height.
In Ifrane, visit an outdoor cafe for coffee, tea, and pastries.
Stop in Zaouia Cheikh for a while. This is one of the 30 dams that Morocco plans to construct by 2030. The current King Mohammed VI is carrying on Hassan II’s idea of constructing one dam every year to irrigate the kingdom.
Lunch in Beni Mellal’s Hotel Paris.
In Marrakech, spend the night in a boutique hotel or riad.
Day 7: Historical Tour, City Visit, Yves Saint Laurent Gardens & Berber Museum, UNESCO Sites & Jewish Heritage Sites with Marrakech Guides
Visit the Gardens, Palaces, and Jewish Heritage Sites of Marrakech.
Day 8: Marrakech Day at Leisure – La Mamounia Gardens Exploration and Hammam/ Spa Experience
Gardens of La Mamounia
Built-in 1929, this famous historical landmark hotel and gardens in Marrakech are maintained by 40 gardeners who plant 60,000 annuals twice a year to enhance the grounds as well as maintain the immaculately mowed grass under the citrus and olive orchards, desert garden, rose garden, and tropical garden, as well as the many fountains. The 200-year-old olive tree avenue leads to the garden pavilion, where you may relax and unwind while sipping Moroccan mint tea.
Abderrazzak Palmeraie Gardens & Museum in Benchaabane
Abderrazzak Benchaabane is a legend in Marrakech. This renowned Garden Designer, Ethnobotanist, Perfumer, Teacher, Photographer, Writer, and Publisher is quiet and soft-spoken. Benchaabane’s private collection of Moroccan modern and contemporary art is housed in the converted stables and piste buildings on the property.
In Marrakech, spend the night in a boutique hotel or riad.
Day 9: Marrakech Excursion to Coastal Essaouira and Essaouira Jewish Heritage Sites
Leave towards the beach Essaouira is a seaside fishing town famed for its Portuguese and Jewish history, hand-painted lovely blue, white, and yellow-painted cottages, excellent seafood, and a thriving artist population.
Beautiful whitewashed and blue-shuttered houses, colonnades, thuya wood crafts, art galleries, and delectable seafood can be found in Essaouira’s attractive artist quarter. Essaouria is noted for its annual GnaouaMusicFestival, which attracts 300,000+ people in June and was once known as Mogador by European sailors and traders. It also features a large surfing beach known as Plage de Safi.
The Star of David may still be seen over the doorways of Jewish homes in many of Essaouira’s painted dwellings. Religious Jews from all over the world visit Essaouira every year for an annual pilgrimage to the burial of Rabbi Haim Pinto, who died in 1845. A hiloula honoring Rabbi Haim Pinto is conducted every September.
Rabbi Haim Pinto’s home and synagogue have been preserved as historical and religious sites. The structure is a functioning synagogue that is utilized by pilgrims and Jewish tour groups who come to the city.
There were Jewish residents in Essaouira a generation ago, but currently, there is just one living Jew, Joseph Sebag, whose relatives escaped Spain with other Jewish families during the Spanish Inquisition. Jacky Kadoch is the president of the Jewish community in Essaouira.
Explore the key Jewish Heritage sites in Essaouira, including the Attia Synagogue (House of Memory), Haim Pinto Synagogue, Bayt Dakira, the Jewish Mellah, and the Old Jewish Cemetery, which features cubist and Amazigh tombstones.
Marrakech, Day 10 Departure
Departure from the airports of Casablanca or Marrakech.