Let's Explore Morocco's 10-Day Jewish Heritage Tour: Discover the rich Moroccan Jewish heritage with this private tour across the kingdom. The Jewish community has played a significant role in the history and culture of Morocco for over 2,000 years. At its peak, the community numbered around 275,000, making it the largest Jewish community in the Muslim world. Although only about 2,000 Jews now reside in Casablanca and 500 elsewhere in Morocco, the Jewish presence can still be felt through various sites throughout the country.
Morocco Jewish Heritage Tour: 10 Days of Cultural Exploration
- Visit Temple Beth-El, the largest and most significant Jewish site in Casablanca with a rich history and modern-day Moroccan Jewish culture.
- Explore the ancient Jewish quarters of Fez, where Jewish communities flourished for centuries and left a lasting impact on the city's architecture and culture.
- Discover the Jewish Museum of Casablanca, a tribute to the Moroccan Jewish legacy with an impressive collection of artifacts, photographs, and documents.
- Witness the vibrant Jewish culture of Marrakech, with its lively synagogues, unique Jewish traditions, and vibrant community.
Upon your arrival at Mohammed V International Airport in Casablanca, meet up with the Let's Explore Morocco team - a private driver with the option of an additional private guide or host - and embark on your journey to explore the rich Jewish legacy of Morocco. Despite being known as the business capital and economic hub of Morocco, there is no shortage of sightseeing opportunities in Casablanca! With the largest population of Moroccan Jews residing in Casablanca, starting your journey here is a strategic choice. Begin your exploration of Moroccan Jewish heritage by visiting Temple Beth-El, which is considered the main Jewish site in Casablanca and boasts a rich history, alongside the modern-day culture of Moroccan Jews. While there are over 30 synagogues in Casablanca, Beth-El is the largest and the perfect starting point for your journey.
Starting the day early is recommended to fully experience the beauty and wonder of the many sites waiting to be explored. Begin by visiting the Museum of Moroccan Judaism in Casablanca, the only museum of its kind in Africa and the Muslim world. The museum, founded in 1997 with support from the Foundation of Jewish-Moroccan Cultural Heritage, offers a vivid representation of over 2,000 years of Jewish religion, history, tradition, and culture in Morocco. Afterwards, take a trip to Casablanca's Jewish cemetery, located in the traditional Jewish neighborhood known as the "mellah." Most of Morocco's largest and most important cities have mellahs, synagogues, and Jewish cemeteries, even though most of the Jewish community now lives in modern or "European" areas while still maintaining properties in the mellah. The Jewish saint Eliahou's tomb in Casablanca's cemetery is a famous site where the Jewish community of Casablanca comes together to celebrate a hiloula, or prayer festival, once a year. Before departing from Casablanca, don't miss out on seeing the grand mosque of Hassan II, the largest mosque in Morocco, featuring the highest minaret in the world, with a capacity of over 25,000 worshippers. The building cost nearly one billion US dollars, raised entirely by public offerings from all layers of Moroccans, including contributions from the Jewish and Christian communities, making it a symbol of harmony among the three main Abrahamic religions. Later in the day, hop aboard the comfortable VIP van for a brief drive to Rabat, the administrative capital, where you can begin by visiting the beautiful reddish stone Hassan Tower, which stands high above the esplanade across from the mausoleum where members of the royal family are buried. The tower was supposed to be the minaret for a vast mosque that was never finished. Next, explore the splendid gardens of Udayas Kasbah and the historic Chellah site, whose history dates back to the Roman Empire and boasts wonderfully preserved structures.
Today, we will continue our journey through the rich history of Morocco and its Jewish heritage. Our itinerary includes visits to important cities and sites that showcase the remarkable Jewish culture and legacy of the country. The drive from Rabat to Meknes takes around one hour, and we recommend starting early to take in the breathtaking scenery along the way. Meknes has a long history of Jewish settlement predating Islam, and we will explore the old mellah with its historic Jewish street names and the new mellah where up to eleven synagogues exist. The old Jewish cemetery, where several saints' tombs are found, including Haim Messas, David Boussidan, and Raphael Berdugo, is located adjacent to the old mellah. Meknes also boasts numerous historical sites to visit during the day, such as the Royal Stables and Agdal Reservoir, the Dar Jamai Museum, Bou Inania Medersa (not to be confused with the medersa of the same name located in Fes), Bab El-Khemis, and the 17th-century kasbah. After exploring Meknes, we will travel about 30 kilometers to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Volubilis, the former capital of the Roman province and the most extensive and impressive Roman ruins in Morocco. Apart from its significant history, photography enthusiasts should not miss the opportunity to capture the beauty of the site during the "golden hour." We will conclude the day by reaching Fes in the evening, where we will spend our first night before embarking on another eventful day of exploration.
Fes is a top tourist destination in Morocco owing to its extensive and fascinating history, warm and hospitable locals, distinctive traditions, and unique atmosphere. Its popularity with tourists stems from the fact that it was a favored home for many Jews, who were among the town's first inhabitants in the late 8th century. Fes is home to a significant number of Jewish heritage sites, in addition to Islamic ones such as synagogues, universities, mosques, cemeteries, gardens, and palaces.
Begin your day by exploring the first Jewish quarter, or "mellah," in Morocco, which was constructed in 1438 and resembles a labyrinth within its walls. Next, visit the Jewish cemetery of Fes, which contains more tombs of Jewish saints than any other cemetery in Morocco. Among these tombs is that of Saint Soulika, also known as Sol Hachuel, who was beheaded for refusing to convert to Islam during the Almohad Dynasty's cruel reign.
No Jewish heritage tour in Morocco is complete without a visit to a synagogue, and the In Danan synagogue is a must-see on this tour. This beautiful and historically significant synagogue is regarded as a cultural treasure and a remarkable piece of Moroccan Jewish history. Its design is considered one of the most magnificent in North Africa.
Another site to visit is the house of Maimonides, the renowned Jewish physician and philosopher who was born in Cordoba in 1135. Maimonides settled in Fes after what some scholars consider the end of the Golden Age of Jewish culture in Spain. He studied at the Karaouine University in Fes before fleeing east from the oppressive Almohad rule, which presented the Jewish community with the choice of conversion to Islam, death, or exile.
Finally, your tour guide will provide a fascinating connection between Muslim and Jewish Morocco by taking you to explore the rest of the old Medina, Muslim sites, and local shops. This includes a visit to the University of Al-Karaouine, the Zaouia Moulay Idriss |I, Dar Batha, a Weavers Cooperative, and the tanneries, all of which are sure to leave you with unforgettable memories of your time in Fes.
Less than an hour's drive south of Fes lies the charming Berber town of Sefrou. Today, the city is famous for its cherry production, but historically it was renowned for the peaceful coexistence between Jews and Muslims. Sefrou was once home to the highest percentage of Jews in Morocco, and it boasts the country's largest mellah, which encompasses over 50% of the medina (old town).
After Morocco gained independence from France, a local rabbi was elected to Parliament, making Sefrou a unique and historically significant Jewish site. In the afternoon, return to Fes and take a leisurely stroll through the well-manicured Andalusian gardens of Jane Sbil, followed by a visit to the nearby Batha Museum with its Andalusian-style garden.
Today's destination is Marrakech, but take the opportunity to stop and explore the enchanting towns of Ifrane and Beni Mellal on the way. Built in the mid-1930s by the French for its strategic location in the mid-Atlas, Ifrane feels like an alpine resort with its fresh air, well-maintained streets, leafy scenery, and snow-capped mountains, earning it the nickname "Little Switzerland."
Next, head to Beni Mellal, a thriving Moroccan agricultural city. Visit Ain Asserdoun and take in the magnificent sights of Taghbalout, Ain Aicha, and Ain Ghazi with their exotic and thrilling sightseeing opportunities. Beni Mellal is also home to Bin el Ouidane, the largest dam in Morocco, which has significantly contributed to the development of farming in the region and provides power to a crucial part of central Morocco.
Finally, arrive at your hotel in Marrakech where you will spend the night, satisfied with the delightful experiences of the day.
Marrakech, known as the capital of the Great South, is the most popular city in Morocco and serves as the gateway to the golden Sahara. Tourists flock to the city to experience its magnificent gardens, royal palaces, and Jewish heritage sites. The Majorelle Garden in Marrakech is a must-visit attraction and is considered the most popular and attractive garden not only in Morocco but also in North Africa. The garden was named after French artist Jacques Majorelle, who spent 40 years creating and opening the garden in 1924. Today, it is a little paradise that contains a psychedelic desert mirage of 300 plant species from five continents. After enjoying the Majorelle Garden in the morning, take a stroll through the different souks in the medina to explore exotic handicraft items. Then, discover the Jewish mellah founded in 1558 by Moulay Abdullah. In the mellah, visit the Marrakech Lazama Synagogue, built in the same year by Jews who had escaped Catholic Spain. The synagogue is a tranquil haven with a priceless history. In the afternoon, visit El Bahia Palace, a remarkable example of Eastern architecture in the 19th century. It is recognized as a very photogenic site with amazing decoration, mixed with varied handcrafted works, beautiful gardens, and great colors. Before arriving in Marrakech, make some stops and explore the charm of Ifrane and the beauty of Beni Mellal. Ifrane, built by the French in the mid-1930s, feels like an alpine resort due to its strategic location in the mid-Atlas. It is also famous for its clean and fresh air, scrubbed streets, leafy outlook, and high mountains adorned with snow. Next, visit Beni Mellal, the Moroccan agricultural city, and explore its many exciting and exotic sightseeing opportunities. It is also home to the largest dam in Morocco called Bin el Ouidane, which greatly contributed to the development of farming in the area and provides electric power to a vital part of the center of Morocco.
Begin your day by discovering the Mamounia Gardens, which is a renowned hotel landmark and an emblem of Marrakech. The gardens were founded in 1929 and are meticulously maintained by a team of 40 gardeners who plant an impressive 60,000 plants twice a year to ensure the grounds are always pristine. The gardens also feature a 200-year-old alley of olive trees leading to a garden pavilion, where you can unwind and enjoy a moment of tranquility with a refreshing glass of Moroccan mint tea.
Later in the day, indulge in a luxurious Moroccan hammam and spa at one of the resorts located in the medina, where you can relax and unwind in style. Let yourself be pampered in this traditional Moroccan steam bath and experience a range of treatments designed to leave you feeling rejuvenated and refreshed.
Essaouira, founded in the mid-eighteenth century, is a symbol of peaceful coexistence between Jews and Muslims. The city's population at that time consisted of over 40% Jews who lived in the Mellah, a walled Jewish quarter under the personal protection of the Sultan. Even today, the tradition of drawing the Star of David above the doorways of homes in the Jewish area continues, with some non-Jewish residents also following this custom. Every September, religious Jews from around the world make an annual pilgrimage to Essaouira to visit the tomb of Rabbi Haim Pinto, who passed away in 1845. His home is now preserved as a historic and religious site. Additionally, if you're a fan of the TV series "Game of Thrones," you can visit the filming site in Essaouira, which served as the city of Astapor where the army of the Unsullied trained and marched out.
There are plenty of interesting and informative tours to explore in Morocco besides the Jewish heritage tour. Consider joining Mint Tea Tours for more future tours to visit other marvelous places like the golden desert of Merzouga and the blue pearl of Chefchaouen.