WELCOME TO VISITING JEWISH MOROCCO
A Visitor's Guide to the History and Culture of Moroccan Jews
Much of Jewish Morocco is hidden from view, but with the right guide, a tourist can gain a rich understanding not only of the role of Jews in Moroccan society, but also of the fascinating role of Moroccan Jews in the Jewish world. Jews, Arabs and the Amazigh people lived a symbiotic existence until the middle of the twentieth century. Moroccan sultans (called kings since Independence in 1956) protected the Jews from harm and helped some of them develop the wealth that sustained the monarchy for many years. Today, no more than 2,500 Jews remain, compared to less than 300,000 in 1950. I lived in Morocco from 1988-1992, built a home there and have had the opportunity to visit dozens of Jewish communities and hundreds of Jewish sites throughout the country. Come join me as I serve as your guide for a virtual tour of Jewish Morocco. Rick Gold
AN UPDATED WEBSITE:
This website, originally created between 1999 and 2002, was updated in 2020, reflecting the changes in Morocco, progress in scholarship on Moroccan Jews, increased focus of tourists on Jewish Morocco and increased focus by Moroccan authorities on the county’s Jewish heritage. Please note that I am using the word "Amazigh" to refer to the Berber people. The word Berber, derived from the word barbarian, is still used by Moroccan and non-Moroccan, but increasing numbers of the people consider it a slur. Instead, I use the words Amazigh and Tamazight (the Amazigh language).
Morocco is the only country in the Arab World both rich in Jewish history and with a living Jewish community. Both Jewish and non-Jewish tourists have delighted in its ancient walled cities, thriving markets, and sumptuous feasts. With a little effort, the tourist interested in the Jewish heritage of Morocco can discover hundreds of fascinating historical and cultural sites. A visit to "Jewish" Morocco is a lesson in the potential for Jewish-Muslim coexistence. Only through seeing Morocco through Jewish eyes can one understand the deep attachment of the Moroccan Jews and Moroccan Jewish diaspora to their homeland.
ABOUT MOROCCAN JEWS:
Visitors to Jewish Morocco need to understand Moroccan Jewish life, culture and history; relationships among Jews, Arabs and the Amazigh people; the reasons behind the emigration of 99% of the Jewish population from the country; and how Moroccan Jewish culture has developed in Israel, Europe and the Americas. Here is your opportunity to learn about:
- The history of Jews in Morocco and the cities, towns and rural areas where Moroccan Jewish communities flourished and withered
- The role of Jews in Moroccan society
- Moroccan Jewish culture
- The factors contributing to the massive emigration of Moroccan Jews
- The lives and culture of Moroccan Jews in the countries where hundreds of thousands of them now live (the diaspora)
Sites of Jewish Interest:
To visit Jewish Morocco, you need to travel to the cities, towns and rural areas where the Jews once lived and where a small remnant of the pre-1950 population are living today. You need to visit the cultural and historic sites that are specifically Jewish as well as those important to Moroccan Muslim Arab and Amazigh peoples. This section guides you to:
- THE IMPERIAL CITIES
- COASTAL CITIES AND TOWNS
- THE ANTI-ATLAS MOUNTAINS REGION
- THE SOUTHERN OASES AND KASBAHS
- THE DRAA RIVER VALLEY
- THE ZIZ RIVER VALLEY-TAFILELT
- NORTHERN CITIES AND TOWNS
- THE EAST
- MUSEUMS AND RESTORED SYNAGOGUES, CEMETERIES AND SAINTS’ TOMBS
- PILGRIMAGE TO TOMBS OF JEWISH SAINTS
- COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS AND CONTACTS
PLANNING A VISIT
To plan your visit to Jewish Morocco, you need recent information on logistics, cultural etiquette, security concerns, Jewish heritage tour guides, and Jewish heritage tours. Here is where you can start your planning.
Teachers' Guides for Moroccan Jews:
Many children, whether or not they visit Morocco, would appreciate learning about Moroccan Jews. Here are teachers' guides on Jewish Moroccan history, culture and religion targeted to students in third grade and sixth grade classes.
MOROCCAN JEWS IN SOCIAL MEDIA:
Moroccan Jews are the focus of many news articles, blogs, videos and analyses available on social media. Here is your opportunity to find social media sites focusing on:
- Moroccan Jews
- Sephardim and Jews from Arab countries
- Morocco and the Jewish world
- Moroccan Jewish diaspora
The bibliography includes the books, articles, videos, documents and websites I consulted in preparing the first version of "Visiting Jewish Morocco" from 1999-2002 and this updated version in 2020.
About Rick Gold
I am a Jewish-American retired US Foreign Service Officer living in Gainesville Florida, USA. During my 29 years working for the U.S Agency for International Development, I served in Morocco, Egypt, the Philippines, Mali, Senegal and Washington, DC. Since 2008, I have worked as an international development consultant specializing on democracy, rule of law, human rights, gender and anti-corruption. I serve on the board of the Society for Humanistic Judaism and am key organizer for the Gainesville Humanistic Judaism Community. I also am board chair of the International Commission for Dalit Rights.