3. Mellah of Marrakech

The city of Marrakech was founded in 1062 by the first emir of the Berber Almoravide dynasty. For centuries in the city Jews from the Atlas Mountains were allowed to trade but not to reside. In the sixteenth century the number of Jews increased greatly with the arrival of exiled Sephardim from Spain and Portugal. This led to the decision of the sultan in 1557 that the Jews were to live in his capital in a walled quarter near the palace district, the Mellah (just below centre of map). The name is derived from ‘malh’, the Arabic word for salt, and many Jews did trade in salt.

According to Islamic law Jews (and Christians) were second-class subjects; they were protected, but had to pay extra taxes. They were not allowed to bear arms and had to wear clothing which distinguished them from Muslims. In the Jewish quarters rabbinical rules were in force. The Mellah in Marrakech contained one of the largest Jewish communities in Morocco, with synagogues and schools, inns and small shops. In its cemetery, filled with white tombstones with Hebrew inscriptions 11 Jewish tsaddiks (righteous, pious men) were revered.

Lambert, Paul, Plan de la Ville de Maroc (la Rouge), from: Bulletin de la Société de géographie, Paris 1868

Lambert, Paul, Plan de la Ville de Maroc (la Rouge), from: Bulletin de la Société de géographie, Paris 1868