Essaouira’s mellah covers over 10 percent of the town, but Jews constituted almost 40 percent of the population in the late 1880’s. Jewish stars on the doors to the mellah show the degree to which Jews were accepted in Essaouira, to the point that some of the richer Jews did not even live in the mellah. Commemorative plaques indicate the buildings in which synagogues were located.
See Einat Levy’s marvelous site for 360 degree and virtual reality images of the mellah, Haim Pinto synagogue and new and old cemeteries. See Diarna’s great site for locations, photos and descriptions of 26 Jewish-related places in Essaouira. See also their exhibit, “Mapping the Mellah of Essaouira.”
In the 1990’s, former inhabitants of Essaouira, most of them Jewish, formed a committee to rehabilitate the city, including the mellah. An important member of the committee is King Mohammed VI’s Economic Advisor, Andre Azoulay, a Jewish Moroccan who was born in Essaouira. The rehabilitation process continued through 2020, improving life for its inhabitants and building the city’s tourism potential. The Jewish cemetery, just outside the city gates, is extremely well-kept. The hiloula of Saint Rabbi Haim Pinto is held in September.
From 2018-2020, the World Monuments Fund documented and mapped the mellah. It prepared the project, “The Untold Stories of the Jewish Quarter of Essaouira,” and collaborated with Diarna on the web exhibit, “Mapping the Mellah of Essaouira.”