Morocco’s Capital of Saffron
Taliouine, located in the valley of kasbahs between Taroudant and Ouarzazate, is the source of Moroccan saffron. Saffron is the red spice that adds a delicious flavor and beautiful yellow color to paella and other rice dishes. Ninety percent of Morocco’s production comes from flowers cultivated in the rich soil of Taliouine. Women collect the stigma from each flower, in a long and painstaking process. Prior to the 1960’s, the Jews of Taliouine helped finance saffron production and trade.
Ighil n Ogho – The Mellah of Taliouine
Fifteen kilometers west of Taliouine is the mellah of Ighil n Ogho (pronounced Iril n Oro). It is in a large adobe town containing the ruins of a palace of a Glaoui family member. The Glaoui family dominated this region during the time of the French protectorate. The population of Ighil n Ogho is haratine, black Moroccans who originated south of the Sahara.
Within the mellah is an extraordinary synagogue, restored by the Foundation for the Preservation of Moroccan Jewish Culture. Built entirely of mud clay and bricks, it is full of arches and has sculpted windows with diamond designs. Stone benches surround the main room and the alcove behind the bima. It is one of the best preserved monuments to the Amazigh Jews, who were such an important population in southern Morocco until the middle of the 20th century.