Northern Cities and Towns

Former Benchimol Hospital in Tangier

Since the end of the 8th century, northern Morocco was under the influence of the Moroccan sultanates, although the mountainous area of the Rif was frequently difficult for sultans to control. Spain invaded northern Morocco in 1859 and was pushed out by the Moroccans in 1862.

In 1909 and 1923, pressure on the Moroccan Sultan led European powers to establish the Tangier International Zone.

European colonialism led to the creation of the Spanish Protectorate in Morocco, with its capital in Tetuan, in 1912. On the Atlantic, the Protectorate covered the area from the Tangier border to just south of the town of Larache. On the Mediterranean, it extended from the Tangier border to east of Melilla. Inland it extended from Larache to Berkane, near the border town of Oujda. Spain returned the Protectorate to Morocco in 1956, the year of Moroccan independence.

Map of the Spanish Protectorate
From Margarita Diaz-Andreu,

Jews have lived in northern Morocco from the Phoenicians over 2,000 years ago. Large numbers of them came with the Arabs in the 8th century, and many more took refuge after being expelled from Spain in the 14th through the 16th centuries.

The city of Tetouan was founded in the 15th century by Muslim refugees from Spain. The Jews who accompanied them spoke Castillan-based Ladino, unlike other Moroccan Jews who spoke Judeo-Arabic or Judeo-Tamazight (Berber). Moroccan Ladino evolved as it integrated Arabic, into a new dialect called Haketia.

Jews made up large percentages of the population in Tetouan, as well as in Tangier. Other large Jewish populations developed in the Mediterranean ports of Ceuta and Melilla, which remain part of Spain.

Haketia-Spanish Dictionary

Today, few Jews are left in northern Morocco after the mass emigration of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Many emigrated to Israel, but others emigrated to Spain and Spanish-speaking areas of Latin America.