Morocco Jewish Tour

10 DAYS / 09 NIGHTS

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DAY 01: Casablanca

Arrival in Casablanca, the energetic capital of Morocco. After immigration and customs, you will be met by your Private Driver, just outside the baggage claims area & will be holding a sign with your name. Please look for him.
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DAY 02: Casablanca – Rabat –  Tangier ( 380 Km)

Breakfast and check out of the hotel. Then enjoy a panoramic orientation drive through this lively city. View the United Nations Square, the Royal Palace and the Corniche with its uninterrupted sweep of beaches, pools and cafes. See the impressive seaside Mosque of Hassan II, the second largest mosque in the world.

Today is going to be a long drive, so dress comfortably and warmly. Depart to Tangier You can make a short city tour of Tangier. Tangier is the oldest continually inhabited city in Morocco. It’s a bustling port on the North

African shore on one of the most important waterways in the world, the Strait of Gibraltar. Due to its strategic position, it has always been prized. But for most of the 20th century (until 1956) it was an “international” city with its own laws and administration. Drawn by loose tax laws and free-port status, it beckoned an eclectic group of expatriates who made their home in the then-stylish resort. It was during this period of misrule and lack of regulation that Tangier earned its not-too-sterling reputation. However, on Oct. 29, 1956 the city was reunited to Morocco, and the “freedom” of an international city came to an end, resulting in an exodus of businesses and banks, and an air of decay in the local economy. Also due to its location as a destination for day-tripping tourists who come from Spain, it has a reputation for very aggressive “guides” and merchants. Do your best to ignore their unwanted services.  The Grand Socco is the main square and probably the best place to start a walking tour of the city.

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DAY 03: Tangier – Chefchaouen – Meknes - Fez  ( 350 Km)

Breakfast, and check out. Depart to Fez  via Chefchaouen (also known as Chaouen) . Hanging like a crescent from twin mountains, the town is a 15th century relic of the Muslim civilization of Andalusia. Nestled into a fold of the Rif Mountains the walls of the town are painted a pale ochre in order to diminish the intensity of the sun. The roofs are covered with brown tiles and resemble those found in southern Spain. The alleyways climb to little squares often crossed by Andalusian arches. Depart to the Imperial City of Meknes. Located in the center of a rich agricultural region where olives, grain, vegetables, and grapes are grown, the history goes back to the 8th century, when it was developed as a hilltop kasbah. But perhaps the most interesting part of its history started in 1666 when Sultan Moulay Rachid appointed his brother Moulay Ismail as the Pasha of Meknes. When Rachid died in 1672 Ismail succeeded to the throne and was determined to make Meknes the new capital.  With slave labor of 50,000 workers, the city was rebuilt to contain dozens of palaces (for his 4 wives, 500 concubines, and some 800 of his most favored children) and gardens, parks, ponds, and pavilions. Often portrayed as a megalomaniac tyrant, during his rule he did achieve order between warring factions, rebuilt mosques, and encouraged trade. Unfortunately the grandeur of Meknes he created did not last long after his death. Slave regiments deposed a succession of his sons. Then the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 shattered the palace compounds, and much government activity was shifted back to Fez.    There is a school here with the front sign in Arabic, French, and Hebrew.
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DAY  04 : Fez

Fez is arguably Morocco’s most fascinating city. This metropolis, sited in a valley, was Morocco’s first capital, and is today the kingdom’s intellectual, religious and cultural center.  The university here is one of the oldest in the world, and the city’s handicrafts are admirable (look for handmade items like rugs,  fabrics, ceramics, leather goods, as well as copper, brass, and silver pieces). Fez street life in the medina may be the most memorable you’ll ever experience. The souks in the medina are an open-air department store, with the spice shops next to the carpet sellers, across from the fishmonger.

This is the hub of Moroccan life, filled with vitality.  Natives of Fez are known as “Fassi”, and have a reputation within Morocco as being excellent businessmen.

Full day sightseeing visit of the city and medina (ancient quarter). This tour includes the monuments and historical sites in the morning such as the Mosque, University, and Nejjarine Fountain. We suggest lunch at a Moroccan Palace-style restaurant within the medina (your driver and/or guide will know of a few good ones). In the afternoon visit the various markets of the souks and the tanneries. I’m sure you will want to spend some time shopping...remember to bargain for everything! Return to the hotel.

There are hundreds of families in the old city whose ancestors were Jews, and who still retain names of Jewish origin. Once home to 40 synagogues in the mellah, we suggest that you stop for a visit to the vast whitewashed Jewish cemetery adjacent to the Royal Palace. (It was typical to place the mellahs near the palaces, because the royals often relied upon the counsel of Jewish advisers regarding finance and commerce.) And Aben Denan Synagogue. It is customary to leave a smalldonation for the caretakers.

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DAY 05: Fez – Beni Mellal - Marrakesh (570 km)

Breakfast at the hotel. Today is going to be a long drive (about 6 hours), so dress comfortably and warmly. Depart to Marrakesh.   Check in to your hotel.  Balance of the day free with the driver at your disposal. Or remain in the city in which case you might enjoy a visit to the Majorelle Gardens.  A botanical garden created by the French artist Jacque Majorelle in the 1920s, the plants are imported from around the world and are highlighted by structures painted a brilliant cobalt now known as “Majorelle Blue”.  More recently owned by the late couturier Yves Saint-Laurent, a small building houses Saint Laurent's collection of Islamic art, and there is a monument to him (he died in 2008, and his ashes are scattered in the gardens). Open daily 8 am to 5 pm in winter, 8 am to 6:30 pm in summer (entrance fee to be paid direct). (If you wish to visit a synagogue, please advice us in advance and we will try to contact the synagogue for you).
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DAY 06: Marrakesh

Morning sightseeing tour of Marrakesh highlights with your driver and guide: Visit the 16th century Saadian Tombs,  Bahia Palace, and the famous and exciting Djma el Fna Square.  Time for walking through - and shopping in the souks,  located just behind Djma el Fna

Square.  You can also visit the mellah (Jewish area).

The Djma el Fna Square is best re-visited at around sunset  where you can perhaps enjoy a coffee at one of the cafes overlooking the action as the square becomes more alive when the sun goes down. You can walk among snake charmers, fortune tellers, dentists (!) , acrobats, and dancers, and much more!!

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DAY 07:  Marrakesh & Environs

Day free with the driver at your disposal. Some suggestions: Ourika Valley –  Drive through scenic roads and authentic berber villages of the Atlas Mountin countryside where people still go to market by donkey.  Light a candle at the tomb of Rabbi Shlomo bel Hans in the High Atlas. This tomb is the site of one of the largest pilgrimages in Morocco. Pilgrimages to the tombs of Jewish “saints” are unique to Judiasm in Morocco (there are over 600 such sites). Once a year in the spring Jews of Moroccan descent come from all over the world for a weekend of festivities and celebration. The Muslims do the same thing; a tradition inherited - it is believed - from the pre-Islamic Berbers.  Stop at Raymuntcho for a surprisingly sophisticated optional late lunch.  You may also have the opportunity to have tea in a typical berber home if you wish (gratuity is expected).   Alternatively if you wish to make a half day excursion to another part the region you can stop instead  in Asni at the Kasbah Tamadot (Richard Branson’s elegant small hotel) and then continue to the tiny village of Imlil, headquarters for those who wish to hike in and around Mt. Toubkal (Morocco’s highest peak).  You can walk up (or ride a mule) to the Kasbah du Toubkal for lunch and a breathtaking view of the mountains.  Guided hikes (short or long) can also be arranged through the Kasbah du Toubkal.
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DAY 08 :  Marrakesh – ESSAOUIRA (175 km)

 Depart to Essaouira. Formerly known as Mogador, the quaint fishing village has a Portuguese influence. Visit the bustling fish market, and the ramparts and bastions which served as the location for the Orson Wells film version of Othello. The town has a somewhat laid back bohemian atmosphere which had appealed to some world known rock stars, and is a great place to relax and kick back. It has a nice medina and is small enough so that you won’t get lost, so a guide is not necessary. Visit the fortifications and the excellent factories which sell locally carved and polished thula wood products.

Part of the joy of visiting is watching the fishermen bring in the catch of the day, and the fish market itself is worth a visit. The ramparts that protect the town are quite lovely and make for a perfect sunset stroll.

Today the town is considered a resort area and is known for windsurfing., but a generation ago there were thousands of Jewish inhabitants in the town. Even though today there are only a few families left .You can visit the mellah where you can see the blue and white painted houses with the Stars of David above the doorways of former Jewish homes.

There is also a synagogue, on the upper floor of Rabbi Chaim Pinto’s former residence. If you can locate the caretaker, you might be admitted (it’s customary to leave a donation for the caretaker).

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DAY 09:  Essaouira – Casablanca (351Km)

Driver to take you at your  leisure to Casablanca. Casablanca is the chief port, the financial, commercial and manufacturing center of the country. A modern city with office buildings and big-city traffic, it will not remind you of the eponymous film starring Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman!  The population has grown from approximately 20,000 in the early 1900s to more than four million today (including the suburbs), and is the largest city in Africa.   It also has the largest Jewish population of any Arab city in the world.  This afternoon drive through the Jewish community and see the Beth El Synagogue.  Then visit the Museum of Moroccan Judaism, founded in 1996, which features a wide range of artifacts including synagogue furniture from various Moroccan cities, and an assortment of scrolls, menorahs, and a photographic exhibit on Jewish communities in the 1960’s.  Museum hours are Monday through Friday from 10AM-6PM. Exhibits may change periodically.   The Musee du Judaisme Marocain is about 3 miles from the city center, and is unique in that it is Casablanca’s only museum, and the only Jewish museum to be found in any Muslim country anywhere in the world. It displays collections of religious books, costumes, artifacts reflecting the role that the Jewish community has had in Morocco.  When fundamentalist bombers attacked properties and businesses in 2003 it sparked the country’s largest protest demonstration in history, marching under the banner “Jews and Muslims, we are all citizens, we are all Moroccans”.   Website: www.casajewishmuseum.com   Drive along the wide boulevards, United Nations Square, the residential area of Anfa and Ain Diab, and then to the Mosque of Hassan II. Situated on the edge of the Atlantic in the easternmost point of Morocco the mosque is truly an architectural masterpiece.   Designed by the French architect Michel Pinseau, begun in 1980 and completed in 1993, the mosque is the second largest religious edifice in the world (after Mecca) and has the tallest minaret at 689 feet.  It can accommodate 25,000 worshippers inside, and an additional 80,000 in the courtyard perimeter.    Built on reclaimed land, almost half the surface lies over the Atlantic. King Hassan II was inspired by a verse of the Koran which states “the throne of God was built upon the water”.  Although traditional in design and decoration, the mosque also has some very modern features such as an area of glass floor so that when the worshippers kneel above it, they can view the sea below.  Also built to withstand earthquakes, the mosque has heated floors, electric doors, and a retractable roof.   Please advise your driver if you wish to take the interior tour: this is the only mosque in Morocco where non-Muslims may visit the interior on hour long guided tours (entrance fee to be paid direct). If time permits we suggest that you ask your driver to take you along the Corniche where you can stop for a seaside snack of coffee and pastry – a charming area of the city that few visitors ever really know about.  Your driver’s services terminate prior to 6:00PM.
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DAY 10:  Casablanca / Departure

Transfer is provided to Casablanca Airport for your flight, End of our services.

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