9 Days Morocco — Heritage of the Jews
Casablanca – Rabat – Meknes – Volubilis – Fez – Ifran – Midelt – Erfoud – Merzouga – Rissani – Tinghir – Ouarzazate – Marrakech
Morocco has had a long Jewish history, dating back thousands of years. The complex, intertwining relationship between the Jewish and Arabic populations is fascinating and unique in the world. With the opening of Israel, many Moroccan Jews moved East, but the country is now experiencing a resurgence of interest in the country's Jewish heritage. 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 discerning traveller interested in the Jewish heritage of Morocco can discover hundreds of fascinating historical and spiritual sites. Only through seeing Morocco through Jewish eyes can one understand the deep attachment of the Moroccan Jewish diaspora to their homeland.
Day 1 | D
Casablanca — Rabat
The tour will start by meeting your driver at Mohamed V Airport in Casablanca, the largest city in Northern Africa and the economic capital of the kingdom after the sightseeing which will include the United Nations place, Mohammed V square, the residential area of Anfa, external visit of the famous Hassan II Mosque one of the largest in the world, and one of the few Mosques open to non-Muslims in the country, and the beautiful Ain Diab corniche the nightlife of the city lined up with restaurants and swimming pools. Casablanca is home to the largest Jewish community in Morocco and has numerous congregations, active communal institutions a visit to the Jewish Museum in Casablanca, this is the first Jewish Museum in an Arab country. We stop at the Beth El synagogue, then we head along the Atlantic coast to Rabat.
Day 2 | B, D
Rabat — Meknes — Volubilis — Fez
After breakfast, we visit the capital of Morocco Rabat, our sightseeing begins with the Kasbah of the Oudayas, the exquisite Mohamed V Mausoleum tomb who saved Moroccan Jews from the occupying Vichy regime during World War II. Explore Rabat’s Jewish cemetery and sites, visit the imposing Hassan Tower built in 1196, the 14 century Necropolis of Chellah and the ramparts and walls of the Mechouar surrounding the Royal Palace.
We continue to fez via Meknes city the former imperial city built at the end of the 17th century by King Moulay Ismail. The city where the Jewish presence is evidenced by Hebraic epitaphs dating from the Christian era as well as Greek inscriptions that still appear in local Synagogues and a place of pilgrimage where the tomb of Rabbi’ David Benmidan, “The Patron of Meknes” is located. The crowded old Mellah, there is also the new Mellah (Jewish quarter), which contain eleven Synagogues, eight of which are still in use.
The highlights will include the old ramparts, the Moulay Ismail stables and granaries. Also visit the gate of Bab el Mansour, one of the most beautiful gates in Morocco; and the Moulay Ismail Mausoleum and Lahdim square. After lunch we will then continue to Moulay Idriss the holiest city in Morocco in the creation of the country’s first Arab dynasty and where the founder of Islam in Morocco is buried, then Volubilis the settlement of the great Roman empire, Morocco’s largest and best preserved Roman ruins then we continue to Fez.
Day 3 | B, D
Full-day tour of the city of Fez, the best known cities in medieval Jewish history, it was the home of one of the most influential Talmudic scholars of all times, Rabbi Isaac Alfasi, as well as of Maimonides in the years 1160 to 1165. Best surviving example of an ancient city, the spiritual and intellectual capital of Islam resting alongside ancient Jewish quarters, was founded in 790 B.C by Moulay Idriss II. The Vibrant Jewish heritage in the Mellah, where artisan craft, antique Jewish goods and handcrafted jewelry is sold. Visit the recently restored Ibn Danan synagogue the oldest extant synagogue in Fez. Until very recently abandoned and decaying, its restoration was part of a comprehensive UNESCO project to preserve the monuments and fabric of medieval Fez.
The highlights will include the Medersas (an Islamic teaching university) to attest the importance of its thousand years of history, the great El Qaraouiyin Mosque the first university in the world and the sumptuous Nejjarine fountain. Independent lunch followed by a visit to the Medieval Medina of Fez has a world of its own, encircled by an unbroken line of ramparts and gates a labyrinth of sloping, winding alleyways are crammed full of artisans and merchants, each district has its own specialty; cobalt blue enameled pottery, carpets, wrought iron, and then Boujeloud gate with its decoration of green and blue faiences.
Day 4 | B, D
Fez — Ifrane — Midelt — Erfoud — Merzouga
After breakfast, depart for Erfoud via the mountains and the cedar woods of the middle Atlas passing by through the Berber villages and towns of Imouzzer, Azrou and Ifran a charming ski resort well-known for its wood carving. It is said that Ifran was the capital of a Jewish Kingdom in the distant past.
We will stop in a small town, Midelt, for an optional lunch before continuing to Erfoud. Along the way, we will pass by Errachidia and the Ziz valley dotted with palm trees, which are the source for the annual Date Festival in Erfoud. You will then come across a totally different face of this country. Here, you will find the huge sand dunes Merzouga, the Saharan dune field closest to Europe where you can sit and gaze at this barren beauty, walk up one of the dunes.
Nearby Erfoud is the point of departure for your Sahara desert immersion we set out on a sunset excursion to the breathtakingly beautiful sand dunes at Merzouga on the edge of the Sahara in the enormous silence we watch the sun set over the desert as we take a camel ride along the dunes to experience an unforgettable ride according to the Bedouine way of life. The «desert ship» would carry you through sand dunes and spectacular scenery. It will be followed by a magical guided-tour and the admiration of a star studded sky. Then a bivouac would be set up around a wood fire. You would appreciate the Bedouin traditional dinner. Accommodation will be provided under a nomadic tent to beneath the innumerable stars of the clear desert sky and awake with the sunrise to watch the colors of the desert changing in front of your eyes.
You have the choice of spending the night in a hotel in Erfoud after exploring the sunset with camel ride in Merzouga dunes or spending the night there in Merzouga under a nomad tent.
Day 5 | B, D
Erfoud — Rissani — Tinghir — Ouarzazate
After breathtaking view of the sunrise, return to Erfoud for orientation including Jewish cemetery, we visit the nearby city of Rissani, the holy city where Moulay Ali Cherif, ancestor of the Alaouite dynasty is buried, with its 18th-century Ksar, a virtually impenetrable warren of alleys; then continue on to the ruins of 17th-century Ksar Abbar fortress.
Continuing South to the “Land of a Thousand Kasbahs” where many Kasbahs, once the fortified houses of Berber warlords, are still seen, some crumbling and some still inhabited by Berber families, the day features one beautiful scene after another, including the village of Tinghir, a stunning mountain oasis rising on a series of river-side terraces lush with palm trees; and the spectacular Todra Gorge from its plunging depths to its 1000 foot high cliffs.
Following lunch, continue to Tineghir and visit its Mellah gateway and the ancient and colorful Jewish quarter, then we visit Kelaa Magouna, known for its roses, then continue to Ouarzazate a desert outpost in the Southern Kasbah region used as a location backdrop by many epic films such as Lawrence of Arabia, Alexander the Great and Jesus of Nazareth… offering an old town with its maze of narrow streets and a new town, we reach the city in late afternoon.
Day 6 | B, D
Ouarzazate — Marrakech
In the morning on our way to Marrakech we stop firstly at Kasbah Tourirt the old Glaoui Palace and the near by Mellah ( Jewish quarter) then we head off towards Ait ben-Haddou, a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of Southern Morocco’s most interesting and scenic villages, visit its old synagogue. Then as we begin our descent from the High Atlas, we pass through typical villages with fortified walls and stone houses with earthen roofs. In Tichka, we traverse the Pass of the Pastures (alt 7,415 feet), where life is much as it was centuries ago…arriving in Marrakech late afternoon.
Day 7 | B, D
Ouarzazate — Marrakech
Your long-day tour will be devoted to the sightseeing of Marrakech, the second oldest imperial city known as the “Pearl of the South” to discover the fascinating history and rich cultural heritage of this ancient city, you will visit the Saadian tombs, the Koutoubia Mosque the tallest building in the city, the Bahia Palace and the Menara Garden, visit the Jewish quarter, which became home of a thriving community of native and Spanish Jews, famed for their rabbinical schools and scholars. Visit the Rabbi Hanania Hacohen cemetery, which is also the burial place of Rabbi Mordekhai Ben Attar and Rabbi Pinhas Hacohen Azough known as the “Patron of Marrakech, after lunch in the evening you will explore the souks and the world’s famous Djemaa El Fna place which offers various entertainments (story tellers, water sellers acrobats, snake-charmers, magicians, musicians and henna artists, orange-juice sellers, open-air barbecue food-stalls etc…
Optional: A Fantasia dinner will be provided under caidal tents at the famed “Chez Ali” restaurant. Enjoy the fantasia spectacle that includes horse shows, folkloric troops from different Moroccan regions and belly dancer.
Day 8 | B
Marrakech — Essaouira — Marrakech
Full day excursion West to the Atlantic Ocean and the former Portuguese colony of Essaouira. Wander about its enchanting streets and alleys: the setting in 1952 for Orson Welles’ Othello. Once known as Mogador, Essaouira’s blue and white medina was names a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visit the extensive Jewish cemetery (Essaouira was once one-third Jewish) built on the shore of the ocean and the synagogue of the venerated Rabbi Chaim Pinto in the Mellah. Return to Marrakech late afternoon.
Day 9 | B
Breakfast at your hotel. Private transfer to Casablanca for your departure flight.
- Accommodation on twin/triple basis as per itinerary
- Luxury private A/C car and airport transfers
- Private English speaking driver/guide
- Meals as per itinerary
- Monuments / Museums entrance fees
- Four wheels drive to Merzouga dunes
- International airfare
- Travel Insurance
- All beverages and alcohols
- Camel ride & desert guide
- Optional activities