Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Marrakech: The Mellah district

An ancient gate in the Marrakechi Mellah
 The Mellah districts found in some Moroccan cities are monuments of a tragic past of this countries fascinating history. The name of these districts is derived from Arabic ملاح, probably from the word ملح, Arabic for "salt", and were the walled ghettos of the Jewish population of Morocco.

There was only one Ghetto in Morocco until 1557, when the Mellah in Marrakech was founded. It is located west of the Kasbah district, close to the Baadi Palace and the Saadian graves. It is a maze of narrow alleyways and streets. We were tricked into this maze by a young man, presenting himself as "no guide, or no street vendor", but his intentions was to lure us to visit his family's shop.

But during our walk through the Mellah we were intrigued by the quarters. What we did not know was that there was a synagogue and a Jewish cemetery to be found here. Only a small number of Jews remained in the area however. Many moved to the port town of Casablanca and even further to Israel. A few more Moroccan jews are living in the modern parts of Marrakech.

I will return to the Mellah next time I go to Marrakech, and try to locate the synagogue and the cemetery.  The nice man that wanted to show us his home, the Mellah, turned to us when we did not want to buy something in his family's shop, for the only reason that we felt tricked, but the images of ancient streets we passed on our way prevail. 

Vis Marrakech on Enjoy Food & Travel 2010-2011 i et større kart

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