This tour explores Morocco’s Jewish Heritage in Casablanca, Fes, Chefchaouen, Ouezzane Rabat and Marrakesh. You will explore historical synagogues and ancient mellahs and trace Morocco’s deep Jewish roots.
If desired, a list of Kosher restaurants will be provided. Also, as necessary, Kosher meals can be prepared in advance and transported.
Your itinerary can be adjusted to include Moroccan landmarks, museums and mosques.
A BIT OF HISTORY
For the past 2000 years, Jews have played an integral part in Moroccan history. They lived in areas known as mellahs, usually located near the King’s Palaces and have held many important positions in government and in commerce.
Before the founding of Israel in l948, the population of Moroccan Jews was around 250,000 and the country was known to have the highest population of Jews of any Arab country. Since that time there have been waves of emigration and today the total population of Moroccan Jews is around 2500. Most of the Jews who have remained in Morocco reside in Casablanca.
Day 1 : AIRPORT TO CASABLANCA
On your arrival at the airport, you will be met by your driver and tour guide who will drive you to your hotel. You can have dinner in your hotel or the restaurant of your choice. If desired, Kosher meals can be delivered to your hotel room.
Day 2 : CASABLANCA
After breakfast, you will meet your driver and tour guide and then begin your tour. Casablanca was the centerpiece of Morocco’s once vibrant Jewish community and many synagogues remain today.
First drive to the mellah and the Jewish cemetery. Visit the Beth-El Synagogue noted for its stained glass windows, gigantic crystal chandelier and exquisitely decorated Hebrew scrolls. Em Habanim Synagogue is located close by and dates to 1940.
Although most of Casablanca’s Jews no longer live in the mellah, there is still a Kosher bakery located close to the Em Habanim Synagogue and a Kosher butcher on Rue d’Alger.
Stop for lunch at a restaurant of your choice. Casablanca has some excellent Kosher restaurants such as Cercle de L’alliance and Club le SOC.
In the afternoon, drive to the Museum of Moroccan Judaism, located in the Oasis section of Casablanca. It is the only museum devoted to Judaism in the Arab world. Housed in a building that was a former orphanage, it was opened in 1997 by the Judeo-Moroccan Cultural Heritage Foundation and contains ritual objects, clothing, tools and synagogue reconstructions plus a large photographic exhibit.
In the evening, drive along the Corniche and visit the Tahiti Beach Club, once a local Jewish hangout. Then head back to your hotel and prepare for dinner at a restaurant of your choice.
Day 3 : FES
After breakfast, check out of your hotel and meet your driver and tour guide. Before heading to Fes, take a tour of the Hassan II Mosque. This mosque, also known as the Grande Mosque, is built on a promontory and looks out over the Atlantic Ocean. It is the largest mosque in Morocco and the largest functioning mosque in Africa. The minaret is the 2nd tallest in the world at 210 meters.
After the tour you will head towards Fes. You will drive along the highway and the trip should take 4-5 hours. When you reach Fes, head to your hotel or riad and have dinner at a restaurant of your choice.
Day 4 : FES
After breakfast, meet up with your driver and tour guide and begin your Fes sightseeing tour. Head first to Fès el-Jdid.
Fes el-Jdid was founded in 1276 and is one of 3 parts of the city of Fes. It is occupied by the historic Royal Palace which was once the center of government in Morocco and which is still used today on occasion by the King of Morocco. The district also contains the historic Mellah, known as the Jewish Quarter. Since 1981, it has been classified along with Fes el-Bali, as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
As you drive down the main street, you will see the overhanging balconies on the front of each house which contrasts to the more traditional Moroccan houses with balconies facing the inner courtyard. You will then visit the Danan Synagogue which dates from the 17th century and was built by Mimoun Ben Sidan, a wealthy merchant from the town of Ait Ashaq, plus the Jewish Cemetery located next to it.
Then you will stop by the Blue Gate or Bab Boujeloud, the main entrance of Fes el-Bali, the world’s largest surviving medieval city and urban car-free zone. Then drive to the Marinid Tombs, elevated on a cliff, for a panoramic view of the city.
Then enter the winding, old walled city of Fes el Bali through one of the 14 gates. Visit, along with your tour guide, the magnificent Moulay Idriss Mausoleum and the medieval University of Karaouiyne plus the leather tanneries which have been in use for 1000 years. You will have lunch in the Old Town.
At the end of the afternoon, you will return to your hotel or riad and have dinner at the restaurant of your choice.
Day 5 : FES
After breakfast, meet your driver and tour guide and drive to the small city of Sefrou. The drive west will take about an hour and you will drive towards the Atlas Mountains through farm lands and orchards. This small city is off the beaten path and offers relaxation as well as lots of history. It is also the place where most of the cherries are harvested in Morocco.
Sefrou was once home to one of Morocco’s largest Jewish communities and a place where Jews and Arabs have lived in harmony for centuries.
As you approach the entrance of the city, you will visit the Cave of the Believer or Kef al Yahudi in Hebrew. According to one Jewish tradition, it is the burial site of Prophet Daniel. Then visit the Medina, as you head toward the city center. The Mellah, with the old Jewish Synagogue and Cemetery, are part of the Medina.
In the afternoon, after lunch, head towards the Mausoleum of Sidi Ali Bosrgin. It is located on the peak of a hill and offers views of the city. Sidi Ali Bosrgin was the patron saint of Sefrou.
As you head back to Fes for the night, stop at the Cascades at the edge of town for a relaxing walk around the reservoir.
Once back in Fes, relax with a Turkish Bath (Hamman) and have a massage. In the evening, have dinner at a restaurant of your choice.
Day 6 : CHEFCHAOUEN
After breakfast, your driver and tour guide will pick you up and drive you through the Rif Mountains to Chefchaouen, a mountain city known as the Blue City and one of Morocco’s most picturesque cities. It is famous for its varied shades of blue that cover walls and doors of the medina.
Jews, along with local tribes and Moors from Spain, have populated the area from the Middle Ages. They came to Chefchaouen as refugees from the Spanish Inquisition and again during the Second World War, fleeing Europe. Most, however, left the area in the late 1940s and early 1950s and emigrated to Israel and other parts of the world.
With your tour guide, explore the medina and tour the Kasbah which now displays the history of the city. Visit the old Mellah which was built within the city walls and is known as Mellah el-Jedid or ‘new mellah’.
Built on the side of the mountain, the narrow alleyways can be steep but offer beautiful views. In the evening enjoy a dinner in the Plaza of the Medina and then return to your accommodations.
Day 7 : RABAT
In the morning, along with your driver and tour guide, head to Ouezzane, a small city in the province of Ouezzane. Many Jews consider Wazzam to be a holy city and make pilgrimages there to venerate several Marabouts (Moroccan saints). One saint, Rabbi Amram ben Diwan, is especially important and is associated with a number of miracles. His burial place is regularly visited, particularly by people who invoke him to heal from their illnesses.
Have lunch at a restaurant of your choice, and then head to Rabat, the capital of Morocco. It is one of four Imperial cities in Morocco and the medina was awarded World Heritage Site status by UNESCO
When you arrive, head to your hotel/riad and have dinner at a restaurant of your choice. There are several well-known Kosher restaurants in Rabat.
Day 8 : MARRAKESH
After breakfast, meet up with your tour guide and driver and have a tour of the city.
Jews have lived in Rabat since the founding of the city in the 12th century. In the 17th and 18th centuries, many Jews engaged in trading activities and many occupied prominent positions in the administration of Rabat. As with the other areas of Morocco, Rabat’s Jewish population has emigrated elsewhere.
First visit the historical Chellah which is a fortified Muslim necropolis and a place where the Jews are believed to have lived during the time of the Phoenicians. Next visit the Tour Hassan and the Mausoleum of Mohammed V. This Mausoleum has become a pilgrimage site for Jews who cannot forget his efforts to defend them.
Have lunch in the Old Town and then visit the Old Mellah. There is one remaining synagogue, the Rabbi Shalom Zaoui Synagogue. It is located within the Bab Diouna and is marked with large Stars of David on the door.
In the afternoon, after lunch, visit the Archeological Museum. There you will find an old Jewish lamp which was found at Volubilis. You can also visit a modern attraction which opened in October 2014, the Museum Mohammed VI of Modern and Contemporary Art.
After the tour, return to your hotel or riad and have dinner at a restaurant of your choice.
Day 9 : MARRAKESH
After breakfast, depart Rabat with your driver and tour guided and head to Marrakesh. Marrakesh is also known as the ‘Red City’ due to the pervasive red color of the sandstone used to construct many of its buildings.
Once you arrive, head directly to your hotel or riad for dinner and overnight stay. Marrakesh has several excellent Kosher restaurants.
Day 10 : MARRAKESH
In the morning, after breakfast, begin your tour of the city with your driver and tour guide.
The mellah in Marrakesh was created in 1558 outside the walls of the El Badi Palace by Jewish exiles who fled the Spanish Inquisition. It is circled by a wall and located next to the royal Kasbah. It used to be one of the main commercial areas of the city.
The Jewish population has dropped from 30,000 in the late 1940’s to the present-day number of 120. Today, most of the Jews who remain in Marrakesh no longer live in the mellah but in the newer parts of the City.
Your tour begins in the old mellah. Enter the mellah through the stone arch, known as the Ben Attar Gate, which was named after the Rabbi Mordechai Ben Attar. Note the balconies on the second floor. The Star of David is engraved on many buildings and the streets have returned to their original Hebrew names. There are a few shops including a Kosher butcher.
Within the mellah is the old synagogue, known as the Slat Al Azama Synagogue. It has been a sanctuary for generations. Children from the mountain villages used to travel to learn about the holy scriptures of the Torah.
Proceed to the Miaara Cemetery which is a popular destination on this heritage tour. It is the gravesite of many famous rabbis.
Have lunch at a restaurant of your choice or the well-known Kosher restaurant, Dar Ima, which is located near the Yves St. Laurent Museum.
In the afternoon, visit some smaller museums such as Musee Tiskiwin which has an exhibition on the old caravan routes. Or visit some of Marrakesh’s historical sites such as the Yves St. Laurent Gardens and the Badi Palace. The Koutoubia Mosque, Menara Gardens and the Saadian Tombs are also close by and worth a visit.
Before returning to your hotel, explore the Old Town and the Jamaa el-Fna Square. The square is lively 24 hours a day with dancers, musicians and artisans. In the evening, have dinner at a restaurant of your choice.
Day 11 : OURIKA VALLEY/MARRAKESH
In the morning, after breakfast, leave Marrakesh and drive into the foothills of the Atlas Mountains towards Ourika Valley. Your destination is the memorial of Rabbi Schlomo Bel Hench.
Ourika Valley was home to 300 Jewish families in the 15th Century. There were 2 synagogues, Jewish schools, and rabbis to perform circumcisions, bar-mitvahs and weddings.
Today the last remaining Jew, who is also a Berber, is Hananiyah Elfassie. His job is to guard the tomb.
Rabbi Schlomo Bel Hench died approximately 500 years ago but is revered like a saint to both Jews and Muslims. He is a legend and people believe he had mystical powers. There is folklore that, on one occasion, he was able to halt the setting of the sun to return home safely from settling a dispute in Marrakesh.
Then drive to Setti Fatma in the valley for lunch at a restaurant by the river. If Kosher meals are desired, they will be prepared in Marrakesh and transported in the refrigerator of the car.
Upon your return to Marrakesh, have dinner at a restaurant of your choice.
Day 12 : MARRAKESH/AIRPORT
After breakfast, you will leave Marrakesh early in the morning and your driver will transport you to the airport in Casablanca to catch your flight home.