• jewish emblems 4 morocco

Jewish Heritage of Morocco

This sample itinerary can be tailored to you and your family’s precise requirements and interests. That is what the Morocco specialists at Pomegranate Travel excel at!

Itinerary

Day 1

Casablanca: A mingling of peoples

Casablanca

Arrive at Mohammed V International Airport, Casablanca where you will be met by our airport VIP service and escorted through arrival procedures. 

The Atlantic city of Casablanca is home to the largest remaining Jewish community in the Arab world.  Together with your expert guide you will explore the city which stands as a testament to the historic and present day reality of peaceful neighborly relations between Jewish and Muslim populations.

We will visit the El Mellah Museum, also known as the Museum of Moroccan Judaism, where we will meet with a representative of the local Jewish community.  We will learn about the proud history of Moroccan Jewry, and the current community in Casablanca with its active synagogues, schools and kosher facilities, uniquely nurtured by the Moroccan monarchy. Further topics to touch on include the annual hiloula, or pilgrimage festival, at the tomb of the Jewish saint Eliahou, and the Musa Ibn Maimon High School where Muslim and Jewish students learn Hebrew and Arabic and celebrate the two religious holidays. We will also take some time at the Jewish cemetery in the Mellah, a quiet, contemplative space with well-kept white stone markers in French, Hebrew and Spanish.

Together with your private guide you will also visit Casablanca’s key monument, a rare mosque open to non-Muslim visitors:  the Hassan II Mosque protrudes over the ocean with its towering minaret standing at 210 meters high. Witness some of the most outstanding craftsmanship in Morocco, including exquisite zellige tilework, stonework, marble carvings, cedar wood and ornate ceilings. 

On Friday evenings we are delighted to arrange wonderful Shabbat home hospitality meals hosted by a local family, this is the very best way to get to understand the Jewish community of Casablanca from the inside.

Home Hospitality Eating

Spend the night in Casablanca, before heading to the capital tomorrow.

Day 2

Rabat: a city of Hope

Rabat

This morning explore Rabat, Morocco’s historic yet vibrant capital city, and the greenest and most ecological city in Africa. Visit the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, its white marble silhouette and pyramidal green tiled roof exemplify modern Alaouite architecture from the 16th to 19th centuries; the Hassan Tower, the last remaining sign of what was to be the largest mosque built in the Muslim world; and the Kasbah of the Oudaias with its delightful Andalusian Gardens and expansive ocean views.

Rabat has also a rich Jewish past, dating back to the Roman period, though the community was particularly vibrant during the French protectorate. Visit the Chellah, where Jews are believed to have lived during the time of the Phoenicians, and time allowing the Museum of History and Civilizations, which displays a menorah found at the Roman town of Volubilis. The beautiful Moorish-style Rabbi Shalom Zaoui synagogue is located within the Mellah (Jewish quarter), while the still-active Talmud Torah synagogue is in the new town a short distance away. Learn about the revered sages buried in Rabat’s old Jewish cemetery, including Eliezer de Avila and Chalom Zaoui.

Most importantly we will meet with an NGO founded by young Muslims dedicated to preserving the cultural plurality of Morocco, and in particular its Jewish heritage.  We will learn about the philosophy behind their endeavors and how they are working with the Moroccan education system and cultural institutions to achieve their goals.

Day 3

Meknes, Voloubilis & Private Villa Hospitality

Meknes, Voloubilis

Continue to the imperial city of Meknes, a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its ancient medina and royal palace remnants, which had its heyday under Sultan Moulay Ismail.  Accompanied by your private guide, visit the Mausoleum of Moulay Ismail, originally built as a mosque and showcasing the finest Islamic artisanship.  Other highlights (currently under renovation) include the Bab Mansour, a magnificent ornamental city gate, once the main entrance to the citadel, featuring intricate mosaic work and inscriptions.  You will also visit the mellah and the Beit Meyer Toledano d’Tanzier- synagogue, built 120 years ago and recently renovated, and the Jewish cemetery unusual for its tombs built into its walls where revered sages are buried, including Haim Messas, David Boussidan, and Raphael Berdugo. 

Your journey continues approximately 30km north of Meknes to the Roman ruins of Volubilis, the best-preserved archaeological site in Morocco, with a spectacular display of mosaic floors amongst its treasures. With your private guide, explore ancient houses with preserved mosaics, Galen’s Thermal Baths, the Triumphal Arch, the Capitol and the Basilica, and learn about archeological evidence of Jewish life in Morocco at the time of the Romans.

Onwards to Moulay Idriss Zerhoun, the site of the tomb of Idris I, regarded as the founder of the first Moroccan state, and the holiest city in Morocco. Enjoy a lunch at a beautiful private villa with inspiring views and delicious cuisine.

Continue to Fez, the spiritual capital of Morocco.

Day 4

Fez: the Spiritual Capital

Fez

The oldest of Morocco’s imperial cities and a source of great pride and historic preeminence, Fez is the cultural heartland of Morocco. Regarded as a city of intellectuals, its streets are full of madrasas (religious schools) and mosques amongst an impressive display of ceramics, leatherware, textiles and other artisanal workshops, and the University of Al-Karaouine is cited as being the oldest university in the world. Accompanied by your private guide, today we explore the heart of Fez’s UNESCO-listed medina, the largest in the Arab world. See the ornamented Blue Gate of Fez el Bali, walk its car-free streets, and take in the towering minarets, brightly-coloured souks, world famous tanneries, and sound of donkey carts as they rattle past.

Fez is also home to some of the oldest Jewish sites in Morocco, its Jewish community dates back to the 8th century, though the population swelled after the 1492 expulsion of the Jews from Spain and Portugal. In the company of your private guide, tour Fez’s Mellah at Fez el Jdid, the restored Ibn Danan and El Fasian Synagogues, the Jewish Museum of the Em Habanim synagogue and the spectacular Jewish cemetery, which contains the tombs of more Jewish sages than any other cemetery in Morocco. Nowadays, the Mellah receives support from UNESCO as part of Fez’s status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Fez is home to some wonderful restaurants and we will be happy to make recommendations and bookings.

Day 5

Sefrou & Cooking Workshop

Sefrou, Fez

Sefrou, just south of Fez, was known as Little Jerusalem due to its high percentage of Jews and its well-developed religious life. Sefrou’s mellah makes up half of the old city and in the late nineteenth century, Jews made up almost half the population. Just outside the Mellah is a large now vacant talmud torah school, synagogue and home for Jewish orphans, and Sefrou’s main Jewish cemetery was recently restored.  This off the beaten track, smaller town is well worth a visit – here the reality of Morocco’s Jewish past really comes alive.

Returning to Fez, we explore the culinary aspects of Jewish Moroccan history in a hands on manner! Intertwined for hundreds of years, Jewish Moroccan recipes have resulted in a cultural fusion, a unique offshoot of Moroccan cuisine. Today’s exceptional culinary experience introduces you to Moroccan-Jewish cooking, from the fish dishes synonymous with Shabbat dinner to crepe-style mouflettas traditionally eaten during the Mimouna celebration at the end of Pesach, all of which are presented with a bit of a twist from our chef.  Consider this Moroccan – Jewish fusion, where Berber, Arab and European influences collide, resulting in an explosion of tastes and aromas.  Using fresh, locally sourced ingredients, you’ll create a mouthwatering menu of Moroccan Jewish dishes that combine tradition with the creativity of the modern kitchen.

This evening take a short flight from Fez to Marrakesh.

Day 6

Marrakech Classics & Jardins

Marrakech

With its exotic heritage, fragranced gardens, labyrinthine medina, and flamboyant souks, Marrakech encapsulates the spirit of the Maghreb like no other city. With full flexibility, today’s privately guided half-day tour is an opportunity to explore Morocco’s “Ochre City”, taking in the sites that interest you most. Highlights include the main square, Djemaa el Fna, famed for its snake charmers, fortune tellers, musicians and dance troupes, and the 12th-century Koutoubia Mosque, a symbol of the city’s rich Islamic history.  Lovers of architecture (and beauty we might add!) won’t want to miss the resplendent palaces of Morocco, and will want to visit one of the 19th-century Bahia Palace, renowned for its zouak ceilings, or El Basha Palace or Dar Si Said (once reopened). Further treasures include the 16th-century Saadian Tombs within the royal kasbah, and Medersa Ben Youssef, perhaps the most exquisite example of Islamic architecture within a madrasa in Morocco. Whether you like to tour fast or slow, to focus on one topic or gain an overview, your private guide will tailor this tour to your specific interests.

Also we will visit one of the world’s most famous gardens.  Created by French artist Jacques Majorelle, later purchased by Yves Saint Laurent, Marrakech’s Jardin Majorelle is a magnificent 12-acre botanical garden in the heart of the city, with an enormous display of cactus trees, cypresses, towering banana palms and vibrant bougainvillea surrounding a bright cobalt blue art deco studio. Stroll along the peaceful shaded pathways and take in the scent of roses, jasmine and hibiscus while you learn about the history of the gardens and their 40-year creation by Jacques Majorelle. Visit the Berber Museum in Majorelle’s former painting studio, wander through its collection of Berber art, textiles, artefacts and clothes, including those from Jewish tribes, and learn about North Africa’s first inhabitants’ history and rich cultural heritage.

Marrakesh has a treasure trove of fabulous restaurants and we will be happy to recommend and book for you.

Day 7

Jewish Marrakesh & Jardins Majorelle

Marrakech

Marrakech has a long history of Jewish heritage. Following the Alhambra Decree in 1492, Jews were expelled from the Iberian Peninsula, some making their way here and integrating into Moroccan society. Around 1558, under the rule of Sultan Moulay Abdallah, a Mellah (Jewish quarter) was formed, home to as many as 30,000 Jews at its peak. We visit the Mellah, a small warren of streets, now an active local neighbourhood inhabited by many of the city’s artisans and metalworkers. The area once featured more than thirty synagogues, though only two remain today. Accompanied by your private guide, visit the historic synagogue of Slat al-Azama (and Al Fassayn upon availability).  We will also visit the Maison de la Photographie, a treasure of a small museum which has a room dedicated to Jewish life, and some fascinating beautiful images.

Next, adventure meets culture in this unique Jewish heritage tour in a vintage sidecar.  Cruising in your open-top sidecar through Marrakech, you’ll drive through the Nouvelle Ville (new town), where Jewish families went to live after leaving the Mellah (Jewish quarter). Visit the synagogue and further community sites which are not usually open to the public, before continuing to the Miara cemetery and a local neighborhood where the French relocated poor Jewish families. End the tour with a visit to a community synagogue which is usually closed to the public.

 

Marrakesh has many fabulous restaurants and we will be happy to recommend and book for you.

Day 8

Atlas Mountains & Temple Jews

Atlas Mountains

Remarkably, there is historical evidence of Berber tribes practising a form of Judaism in the Atlas Mountains as early as the 6th century BC. While most of the original Jewish Berbers converted to Christianity and later Islam, these shared roots culminated in warm relations between the Jewish and Berber communities. Today, you’ll have the opportunity to explore key Jewish sites in the Atlas Mountains. Just outside the Ourika Valley, only 60km from Marrakech, lies asleepy Berber town which was home to a Jewish community as recently as 40 years ago. Start with a visit to the last remaining Jewish Tomb in the cemetery, then head to the home of the former Kosher Butcher and Shochet where we will meet with the family who now live there and had a long and enduring relationship with the Jewish community. Enjoy a tour of the home as well as freshly baked Berber bread, a traditional tea ceremony, a viewpoint over the village and an explanation of the Jewish history of the area.

Following the village visit, head to the magnificent  500-year-old tomb of Rabbi Shlomo Bel Hench, a former chief Rabbi and one of the most revered in Morocco. His shrine is believed to have healing properties, and many people have travelled here seeking miracle cures.

Day 9

Essaouira

Essaouira

This morning we make our way to the charming coastal city of Essaouira.  Famous for its Tradewinds, known locally as alizé, Essaouira is a picturesque port town with a bohemian vibe, frequented by windsurfers between the months of April and August. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it is also a superb example of an 18th-century fortified town and a major seaport, connecting Morocco and sub-Saharan Africa with Europe and beyond. A diverse range of ethnic and religious groups have co-existed here throughout history, including Africans, Arabs, Greeks, Christians, Jews and Muslims, making it a thought-provoking centre of multiculturalism. Accompanied by your private guide, discover the highlights of Essaouira, including the ancient city walls known as “Skala de la Ville”, the medina’s spice-filled laneways, vibrant souks, and the fishing port with its assortment of bright blue boats. Learn about the city’s rich history as a strategic port, explore its vibrant art scene, and admire panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean.

Morocco’s Jewish community has a long connection to Essaouira. In the 18th century, Alaouite Sultan Sidi Mohamed ben Abdellah appointed some influential Jewish families to promote international trade from its port. By the late 1880s, Jews constituted almost 40% of Essaouira’s population. Many homes in the Jewish quarter were affixed with Magen Davids, and unlike other cities in Morocco, some wealthier Jewish families lived outside the Mellah. With your expert guide, explore Essaouira’s Jewish history and see the commemorative plaques that display where synagogues once stood. Visit the three existing synagogues, including Rabbi Chaim Pinto Synagogue, where 1,500 pilgrims gather each year for the hiloula of Rabbi Chaim Pinto, the Slat Lkahal Synagogue (newly renovated in 2010), and the impressive Simon Attias synagogue, which houses a new museum and research centre, and the well-kept Jewish cemetery just outside the city gates.

Enjoy an evening stroll through the windy city, and we will also be delighted to recommend and book a restaurant.

Day 10

Day at Leisure

Marrakesh

Return to Marrakesh for a day and night at this luxury property just outside of the city, where you can fully relax and reflect on some of the extraordinary sites and experiences of this journey.

This evening dine at one of the hotel’s fine restaurants enjoying the fabulous view over the gardens.

Day 11

Depart Morocco

Marrakech

You will be transferred by comfortable air-conditioned car to Marrakech Menara International Airport. Our airport VIP service will assist you with procedures. We wish you a safe and comfortable journey home, taking with you many treasured memories.

Stay Longer

Consider including the desert, and the fabulous desert synagogues at Ouarzazate and Errachida.

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