The cultural diversity of contemporary Morocco reflects its historic vantage point as a gateway to Europe and the world. Morocco’s Jewish Heritage offers visitors an encounter with ancient historic traditions, customs, architecture, monuments and sites that have permeated Moroccan society for centuries. Travel Exploration’s Jewish Heritage Morocco Tour is tailored for the cultured and sophisticated traveler. Visits to historic synagogues, cemeteries, architectural sites, and natural surroundings of the region along with options to attend Jewish Shabbat services and to enjoy dinner at the home of a Rabbi are just a few of the highlights of this tour.
Arrival at Casablanca’s Mohammed V Airport. Dinner at Kosher Restaurant in Casablanca. Visit Temple Beth-El, the Jewish Synagogue in Casablanca. Beth-El, is considered the centerpiece of a once vibrant Jewish community. Its stained glass windows and other artistic elements, is what attracts tourists to this synagogue. Option to visit Temple Em Habanim and Neve Chalom as time allows.
Overnight in Boutique Hotel in Casablanca.
Visit the Museum of Moroccan Judaism in Casablanca. The Jewish Museum in Casablanca covers an area of 700 square meters, is the first of its kind in the Arab world. The Museum of Moroccan Judaism of Casablanca is 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. The Jewish Museum in Casablanca is tucked into a residential neighborhood and holds a treasure trove with it being the Arab region’s only Jewish Museum. It uses world-class standards of conservation for its national and international collections. The Museum of Moroccan Judaism presents religious, ethnographic and artistic objects that demonstrate the history, religion, traditions and daily life of Jews in the context of Moroccan civilization.
Visit Casablanca’s Jewish Cemetery and Mellah
The mellah of Casablanca is young by Moroccan standards, not much more than a century old. It assaults the senses in the evening, with a sea of women in brightly colored djellabas carrying and selling fruit and vegetables throughout the cramped, narrow streets. While Jews no longer live in the mellah, kosher butchers are found in the old market, next to other butchers selling horsemeat. The Jewish cemetery in the mellah is open and quiet, with well-kept white stone markers in French, Hebrew and Spanish. Once a year, Casablancans celebrate a hiloula, or prayer festival, at the tomb of the Jewish saint, Eliahou.
The Jewish cemetery in the mellah is open and quiet, with well-kept white stone markers in French, Hebrew and Spanish. Once a year, Casablancans celebrate a hiloula, or prayer festival, at the tomb of the Jewish saint, Eliahou.
The 4,500 Casablanca Jews live outside the mellah in the European city, where they worship in over 30 synagogues, eat in kosher restaurants, entertain themselves in community centers, and attend Jewish schools and social service centers. Beth El is the largest synagogue and an important community center, seating 500 persons.
Visit the Mosque of Hassan II’s promontory offers lovely views overlooking Casa in the residential Afna quarter. After touring the Mosque, head over to the New Town of Casablanca also designed by the French architect Henri Prost.
Overnight at a Boutique Hotel or Riad in Rabat.
Visit Rabat, and then take the road to visit Meknes and the Roman Ruins of Volubilis.
Visit the Royal Palace, the Hassan tower which stands on the hill overlooking the Wadi Bou Regreg. It is a gigantic mosque, emblematic of Rabat and famous for its unfinished minaret where storks nest. Next door, visit the beautiful Mausoleum of Mohammed V decorated with stained glass windows, white marble and a wrought-iron entryway with a stairway leading to an impressive dome. Visit the Jewish Mellah which today is now the home of very few Jewish families.
Explore the gardens nearby and visit the Palace of Rabat and visit the Necropolis at Chellah/ Kasbah of Chellah and Kasbah Oudaya. Option to visit the seaside community in Sale, which is the birthplace of Rabbi Hayyim Ben Moses Attar. Attar was an 18th Century Kabbalist born in Morocco in 1696 and known throughout the Jewish world for his Bible commentary with mystical content.
Take the road to visit Imperial City of Meknes, “the Moroccan Versailles” and the Roman Ruins of Volubilis “Walili.”
Panoramic View of Meknes – Begin the visit with a panoramic view of Meknes, which offers a splendid look at the old Islamic Medina with its numerous tall and soaring minarets. Other sites explored include Bab El Mansour, the Meknes Stables, Hedim Square, the Thursday Gate and mosque of Moulay Ismail.
Visit the Jewish Quarter on arrival in Meknes. Explore the Jewish Mellah, with its narrow lanes and colorful courtyards. The presency of Jewish history is evident in the Hebraic epitaphs that date back to the Christian era. These epitaphs along with Greek inscriptions can be seen on the Meknes Jewish zaouia, a place of pilgramage where the tomb of Rabbi David Benmidan still resides.
Visit Meknes Historic Sites in the Afternoon:
Take the road to the Roman City of Volubilis.
Begin your visit by discovering the fascinating Roman ruins adorned with beautiful mosaics and colorful tiles depicting Roman mythology. The ruins are spread out across several acres and what remain visible are several fragments of wall, parts of massive columns, the capitol, the basilica and a triumphal arch. The ruins reveal how the Roman Empire transformed the original Carthaginian settlement into a typical Roman city complete with mansions, a town center, a triumphal arc and temples devoted to the Roman gods. Commence your visit in Volubilis, and then take the road to Fes.
Overnight at a Boutique Hotel or Riad in Fes.
Visit Jewish & Muslim Historic Sites in Fes:
History of Fes: Jewish Sites in Fes
Fes is among the best known cities in medieval Jewish history. It was once the home of one of the most influential Talmudic scholars of all times, Fes was founded by Idriss I in the eighth century.
During this guided historical tour of UNESCO Fes you will visit the Jewish Heritage Sites and Cultural Sites of Fes that combine site seeing at Synagogues, Universities, Mosques, Cemeteries, the Mellah along with gardens and palaces. Your guide will offer a connective link between Muslim and Jewish Morocco.
The Jewish Mellah:
In contrast with the young Mellah of Casablanca, the 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 Jewish Cemetery:
The nearby cemetery contains the tombs of more Jewish saints than any other cemetery in Morocco. One of the more important saints is Solica, who was killed for refusing to convert to Islam.
Throughout the old city of Fes, there are traces of ancient Jewish life, including the home of Maimonides, who lived in the city from 1159-1165. 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
The Danan Synagogue:
The Danan synagogue was once only one of several inside the walls of Fes, and not the most elaborate. TheI Ibn Danan Synagogue is one of the oldest and most intact synagogues in Morocco. This synagogue, located in the heart of the mellah (Jewish quarter), is a rare survivor of a pivotal time in Moroccan Jewish history.
Synagogues of Fes:
Unmarked on their exteriors – dating from the 17th century: among the most unique in the world. The Mellah of Fes once had 40 synagogues. See the vast and picturesque whitewashed Jewish cemetery adjacent to the gates to the Royal Palace and the nascent Jewish Museum at the Em HaBanim synagogue.
Old Medina Muslim Sites & Shopping in Fes:
Overnight at a Boutique Hotel or Riad in Fes
Visit Seffrou, the capital of cherries. Sefrou, south of Fes, 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.
En route to Sefrou make a short stop to visit Bhalil a cemetery
Sefrou was once a major center for Morocco’s Jews and its walled white pedestrian medina is still characterized by their houses with wooden balconies.
A good example of interfaith dialogue in Morocco can be witnessed in the city of Sefrou. In Sefrou lived Muslims and Jews in good harmony door to door and practiced their religious rituals in unison.
Afternoon Option Gardens & Palaces of Fes:
Jnane Sbil Gardens:
Batha Museum & Andalusian Garden
Bou Inania Medersa
Overnight in Fes.
Take the road to Marrakech.
En route stop to see the view of Ifrane University and go for a short walk around the garden. Ifrane is nick named “Little Switzerland” of Morocco for its architecture, cedar forest and winter ski resort options. Developed by the French during the protectorate era for their administration due to its Alpine climat, this Moroccan town has a remarkable European style, as if it were an Alpine village. Because of its elevation, the town experiences snow during the winter months and a cool climate during the summer.
Enjoy coffee, tea and pastries in Ifrane at an outdoor cafe.
Make a short stop in Zaouia Cheikh. This is one of the 30 damns that are scheduled to be built in Morocco by 2030. The idea originating with Hassan II to build one dam a year to irrigate the country is being carried on by the current King Mohammed VI.
Lunch at Hotel Paris in Beni Mellal.
Overnight at a Boutique Hotel or Riad in Marrakech.
Visit Marrakech’s Gardens, Palaces, and Jewish Heritage Sites.
The Majorelle Gardens & Berber Museum
The Majorelle Gardens, previously the Jardin Bou Saf, bears its name from its original creator, Jacques Majorelle, the French expatriate artist who was born in Nancy France in 1886. In 1947 he opened his gardens to the public and during this time also painted a magnificent ceiling space at La Mamounia hotel. Later, French fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent purchased the gardens. Today the Majorelle Gardens house a unique collection of flora and fauna along with the Berber Museum.
The Old Spice Market
The Rahba Kedima is a colorful market filled with a wide array of spices from Cumin, Cinnamon, Saffron, Dried Pepper and more.
The Jewish Mellah
Founded in 1558 by Moulay Abdallah, the Mellah district was designated as the Jewish quarter in Marrakech.
El Bahia Palace
The El Bahia Palace in Marrakech is a beautiful building and an excellent example of Eastern Architecture from the 19th century that represents trends and standards of the wealthy that lived at that time.
Visit the Marrakech Lazama Synagogue in the old medina. This Quarter was created in the Kasbah area in 1558. The Jewish community enjoyed autonomy even though Jews weren’t allowed to own any property outside the Mellah and controlled the sugar trade. There are approximately 250 Jews still living in Marrakech, and most live outside the Medina.
Visit Synagogue Bet-El, Impasse Des Moulins (Centre American) – Gueliz.
The Saadian Tombs
The Saadian tombs in Marrakech date back from the time of the sultan Ahmad al-Mansur (1578-1603). The tombs were only recently discovered (in 1917) and were restored by the Beaux-arts service. The mausoleum comprises the corpses of about sixty members of the Saadi Dynasty that originated in the valley of the Draa River.
Overnight at a Boutique Hotel or Riad in Marrakech.
La Mamounia Gardens
Built in 1929 this famous historical landmark hotel and gardens in the center of Marrakech is cared for by 40 gardeners who two times a year plant 60,000 annuals 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 avenue of olive trees leads one to the garden pavilion where you can soak in the peace and solitude with a cup of Moroccan mint tea.
Abderrazzak Benchaabane’s Palmeraie Gardens & Museum
Abderrazzak Benchaabane is a Marrakech legend. Quiet and soft spoken, this renowned Garden Designer, Ethno botanist, Perfumer, Teacher, Photographer, Writer and publisher Within the converted stables and piste buildings on the property Benchaabane houses his private collection of Moroccan modern and contemporary art.
Overnight at a Boutique Hotel or Riad in Marrakech.
Depart for Seaside Essaouira, a seaside fishing town known for it’s Portuguese and Jewish History along with hand painted charming blue, white and yellow painted houses, fresh seafood and artist community.
Essaouira’s charming artist colony that boasts lovely whitewashed and blue-shuttered houses, colonnades, thuya wood workshops, art galleries and mouthwatering seafood. Once called Mogador by European sailors and traders, Essaouria is known for its annual GnaouaMusicFestival that attracts 300,000+ people in June. It also has an expansive beach for surfing called Plage de Safi.
Many of Essaouira’s painted houses still have the Star of David above the doorways of Jewish homes. Each year religious Jews from around the world come to Essaouira for an annual pilgrimage to visit the grave of Rabbi Haim Pinto who passed on in 1845. The hiloula celebrating Rabbi Haim Pinto is held each September.
Today the home of Rabbi Haim Pinto and the synagogue have been preserved as a historic and religious site. The building is an active synagogue, used when pilgrims or Jewish tour groups visit the city.
A generation ago there were Jewish inhabitants in Essaouira however today there is just one family left called the Jacky Kadoch family and descendants of other Jewish families. Jacky Kadoch is the president of Essaouira’s Jewish community.
Overnight in Marrakech.
Departure from Casablanca or Marrakech’s airport.
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