We really enjoyed our time in the Mellah district, which is the old Jewish quarter. There are plenty of narrow laneways to explore and there was a distinct lack of tourists around when we visited which is always nice.
There is an excellent spice market in the area where we spent ages chatting to one of the traders. Alison purchased a few spices and he threw in some free pumice stone and a Berber toothbrush for us both.
In the Mellah you can visit a small synagogue. The local children will point it out to you - it is hard to find as it is hidden behind a plain door on a narrow street. I have written more information in a dedicated tip about the synagogue.
Also in this part of town you can visit the remnants of La Palais Badii, a magnificent palace that was built by Sultan Ahmed el-Mansour in 1578. The palace was subsequently torn apart by a later sultan who used the materials to decorate his own palace. Unfortunately the palace was closed when we tried to visit.
Another place in the Mellah that we didn't get the chance to visit, but really wanted to, was the Palais Bahia. This 19th century palace was built as a harem's residence by Si Ahmed ben Musa. Its rooms vary in size depending on the importance of each wife or mistress. It has lovely courtyards and gardens.
Mellahs are the old Jewish Quarters of Moroccan cities and towns.
The Mellah of Marrakesh is located within the city walls, south of the Bahia Palace.
This area was established during the 16th century. Jewish and Muslim refugees fled from Spain to seek safety in Morocco in 1942, this area continued to grow, and businesses flourished.
During WW2. Morocco provided protection for around 300,000 of it's Jewish citizens (and assisted many Jews from Europe to flee to The USA )
After WW2, many thousands of Moroccan Jews emigrated to Israel, leaving their homes and posessions behind.
Evidence of its past inhabitants can still be seen. There are synagogues (guides will show you around) Look out for Star of David carvings over doorways. Antique shops nearby sell goods that were sold or left behind by those leaving for Israel.
The narrow winding streets are well worth wandering around, there's a different atmosphere, and each turn offers a different sight.
The old Jewish district in Marrakesh. Most of the people living there now are Muslims. The atmosphere is a bit different than in the rest of the city. The streets are narrower, the buildings seem higher and very crowded reflecting the conditions of many Jews who lived there until the 60's. There are still synagogues there but the one you can visit doesn't worth it (see Tourist traps).
This district is always lively thanks to the kids playing on the street. But be carefull, most of them already received money or other things from tourists and won't let you go until you give them something. But I don't know if it's a solution to give them something because they will always ask for more. Think of the tourists who will come after you ;-) You'll see that some kids are only nice when they expect something and they insult you if you don't give anything.
The mellah is the old jewish neighborhood whose population is now mostly moroccan moslims. There you will find almost no tourists...maybe you will have the opportunity to play with the children like Bridget! If you look for authenticity...you will find it here...but don't follow the "false guide" who will lead you to a synagogue that is not interesting at all!
The Mellah neighbourhood was built in the 16th century, during Saadian rule, specifically for the Jews of Marrakech who were moved from the Mouassine area in the Medina. Such was the importance of the Jewish community of Marrakech, that this name was adopted by other cities in Morocco for their Jewish neighbourhoods. Although still possibly a couple of thousand strong, the Jewish community has dwindled down from the number it once was following migrations from the Iberian peninsula in the 15th century, despite tolerance and pride of Judaism in Morocco to this day. Nevertheless, walking through the streets of Mellah, Jewish names of doctors, barbers and shop keepers are proudly displayed and the community seems to live in peace. Though with the migrations out of Morocco, the neighbourhood has gradually been repopulated with Moslem families. The only remaining active synagogue can be visited. It is located in the heart of the neighbourhood not too far from Palais de la Bahia.
The mellah used to be the Jewish district of Marrakesh; many Jews lived in this neigboorhood. Most of them emigrated to Israel. One synagogue is still functioning for the small amount of Jews that is still living in the city.
Just ask some children in the mellah, they will be happy to guide you for a few dirham or a pen. An old, almost blind , rabbi opened the small sephardic synagogue for us and guided us around. He will expect you to give some money, but that's how things go in Morocco.
'Mellah' is a name that is used for the Jewish
quarter in every Moroccan city. The word 'Mellah'
literally means the place where salt is sold.
The first 'Mellah' was in fez. After a riot the
population of this place changed in almost
strictly Jewish people. Later the word was used
for every Jewish neighbourhood all over the country.
If you cross the street from the 'Sagha' or Juwelers
gallery you can enter this covered market
with a lot of different goods. I loved the colors
and the atmosphere here. IF you want to buy
something , like spices , I advice you to have
a look around. For instance cinnamon is
4 steps further half as sheep as at the entrance.
Yes , I was surprised to see that some of the
stuff had price tags. :-)
The Mellah is the Jewish quarter of the city. They were moved in 1558 to this secure part of the city by Saadian Sultan Abdullah el-Ghalib to be near the Royal Palace. The quarter was surrounded by walls with only 2 gates to enter by, the main one being off Place des Ferblantiers. Their talents which incorporated bankers and jewellers were used by the Royal Family. The quarter even has its own cemetery.