1-day Marrakech Moroccan Jewish Heritage Tour: The Jewish community has a long history in Marrakech at small and Morocco at large. Indeed the history of the Moroccan Jewish community stretches back to ancient ages under the Roman Empire following the dissolution of the Jewish state in 70 AD with Jewish people arriving after the destruction of the Jewish state.
The Jewish people received relatively kind treatment under the Moroccan sultans, when the Muslim empire of Morocco was founded, due to their usage of the jiyza system whereby they were under the protection of the king as long as they paid their taxes.
The Jewish community played a vibrant role in Moroccan life until the formation of the state of Israel when large numbers left to emigrate to Israel. A very noticeable legacy has however been left by the community both physically and culturally.
Today we take you on a private 1-day Moroccan Jewish Heritage tour in Marrakech to explore an area of about 2,000 years of Jewish legacy in one day. This one-day tour will also include cultural and historical sites in Marrakech in addition to the Jewish heritage sites such as the Jewish mellah, the Jewish cemetery and the local synagogue.
Start your tour of discovering the hidden Jewish historical treasure of Marrakech from the Jewish mellah that was founded in the mid-15th century. The mellah was established especially to host Jews who were escaping the ruthless misery practiced upon both Muslims and Jews by the Spanish Catholic monarchs Fernando and Isabella upon the Spanish Inquisition of Andalusia.
Like all other Moroccan mellahs, Marrakech’s Jewish neighborhood is walled and located adjacent to the kasbah, which functioned as the royal palace. Historically speaking, the sheltered area provided the Jewish community with protection. This containment might be seen as punitive, but in reality, Jews sustained their culture in a relatively autonomous community within.
In fact, Jews were free to have other activities outside the mellah’s walls, but they were not allowed to have more properties further outside of there. Interestingly enough, there are approximately 250 Jews still living in Marrakech, and most of them live outside the medina. The mellah in the historic Marrakech medina is now almost completely Muslim, but it is a unique landmark of Jewish historical and cultural existence in Marrakech.
Not so far from the mellah lies the old spice market where is found a huge collection of Moroccan spices. The Rahba Kedima market is a colorful market filled with a wide array of spices from cumin, cinnamon, saffron, dried pepper and more.
Next, visit the Lazama Synagogue that is located in the old medina. The synagogue dates back to the 16th century and it is one of the important synagogues among several synagogues remaining in the mellah of the Marrakech medina. It is the main synagogue and the only one that is open daily to the public. It is certainly the most picturesque and is popular for weddings and b’nai mitzvah among foreign visitors.
Adjacent to the mellah, just a five minute walk from the Lazama Synagogue is the Jewish cemetery, our next stop on today’s tour.
The medina of Marrakech provides no hint that behind the fairly anonymous entrance and perimeter walls lies such a vast space and one of such significance as the Jewish cemetery of Marrakech. The cemetery is undoubtedly fascinating and incredibly well preserved. It is the largest Jewish cemetery in Morocco and is characterized by its white-washed tombs and sandy graves.
Despite being the largest cemetery, the graves have three burial layers in order to make the limited space go further. The cemetery of Marrakech is rather important in the Jewish world as many famous and respected Tsadikkims are buried there.
Later, we drift a little bit from Jewish heritage and we start visiting historical and cultural sites of Marrakech.
Start this unique visit by exploring Majorelle gardens, the most prestigious and popular gardens in Morocco and perhaps North Africa. Historically, the garden took its name from French artist, Jacques Majorelle, who toiled 40 years to fully create and open the garden in 1924. In its modern form, the garden is Marrakech’s little paradise which contains a psychedelic desert mirage of 300 plant species from five continents.
Our next stop after the garden is the iconic site of Koutoubia Mosque and Gardens. Koutoubia Mosque was built during the 12th century by the Almohad dynasty. Today, at 70 meters high, the minaret remains the highest structure down the years counting all dynasties that ruled Morocco. The mosque on the other hand is considered the largest mosque in Marrakech. Local laws restrict any new building projects from exceeding the height of the minaret, providing a focal point for all to enjoy.
Later, visit El Bahia Palace. This sprawling palace was built between 1866 and 1867. It
is set over two acres in the middle of the Marrakech medina and features 150 rooms, including a harem section located just off the sun-filled Court of Honor. The palace is perhaps one of the best-preserved historical sites and certainly most interesting in Marrakech.
The next stop on our today’s tour will lead us to the Saadian tombs. Marrakech is home to many historic attractions and interesting museums. As a matter of fact, Marrakesh was the capital during both Almoravid and Saadian eras, and legacies from each dynasty can be observed around the city. The Saadian tombs date back from the time of the sultan Ahmad al-Mansur (1578-1603).
The tombs were discovered only recently in 1917 and were brilliantly restored. The tombs have been a major attraction for visitors of Marrakech thanks to the beauty of their decoration. The mausoleum comprises the corpses of about sixty members of the Saadi Dynasty that originated in the valley of the Draa River.
Finally, our one-day private Marrakech Moroccan Jewish Heritage tour will come to an end at Djemma El Fna square, where you will have the chance to make a discovery of your own, encountering locals and getting amused by the musical performances.
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