Jewish Life in

MOROCCO

 

Monday, May 4th to Saturday, May 16th, 2020

 

Invitation to the Study Tour

 by

Mokhtar Abouissaba

Expert Scholar/Guide on Jewish Life in Morocco 

 

 

 

Introduction

 

Morocco has long been perceived as exotic, mysterious and beautiful by Western eyes.   This journey will meet these perceptions head-on with an intimate look at the country through socio-cultural, historical and particularly Jewish perspectives.

Historical sources suggest the Jewish presence in Morocco probably began during First Temple times, and certainly Jews have been part of the cultural mix there since the fall of Jerusalem’s Second Temple.

A major wave of Jewish immigration to Morocco was spurred by the events of medieval Europe, following the 15th Century Reconquista and the expulsion of the Jews (and Muslims) from Spain (1492) and shortly afterwards from Portugal (1497).

Immigrants and sojourners discovered that the area had coastal enclaves, hidden mountain villages and vast stretches of desert. Morocco has seen its share of conquering civilizations because of its strategic importance as a gateway to Northern Africa from the Middle East and Europe. Nevertheless, unlike the land of Israel, it was never fully conquered (until French colonialism in modern times), because the impenetrable Atlas Mountains

Various aspects of the Jewish past are tightly enmeshed in Moroccan history.  Language played an important role in that history.  The Hebrew and Aramaic languages used by the Jews closely resembled the Punic languages of the Carthaginians. Many Jews settled among the Amazigh (“Berbers”) and adopted their languages. Today, most of the Jews speak French in the Arabic-dominated country.

By the time of the Yom Kippur War in 1973, most of Morocco’s Jewish population had emigrated to Israel, France, Canada, and the United States. Today there are about 2,000 to 2,500 Jews living in Morocco, most of whom dwell in Casablanca.  An exodus of young men establishing their lives in Israel and France jeopardizes the future of this once-great Jewish community, the largest in the Arab world.

Program Features

Mokhtar Abouissaba, our guide, will lead the trip as we discover this fascinating country with its splendid and sometimes turbulent history, cultural diversity, varied geography and rich Jewish imprint. Mokhtar recently led the 16-day Once in a Lifetime Morocco trip in March 2019. 

Our itinerary includes visits to the four Imperial Cities-Rabat, Fes, Meknes and Marrakesh-as well as Casablanca, ErfoudIfraneMidelt, Merzouga, Ouarzazate,  the "Blue City" of Chefchaoun and the quaint seaside town of Essaouira.

We will learn about the place of Jewish civilization and important Jewish figures in Morocco’s folklore with visits to major cities, small villages and distant shrines. We will also meet with Jews that make the county their home today.

During our odyssey, we will see ancient cities, remote villages in the Atlas Mountains and seaports. We will be transported in modern motor coaches, 4x4s, and camels in the Sahara. There will be walking tours (maximum 2 hours) and free time interspersed throughout our itinerary.

We will visit world-famous sites including the Mosque of Hassan II in Casablanca, Oudaya’s Garden in Rabat, the King’s Palace and the Medina in Fes, and the Market of Jemmaa Elfna in Marrakesh.

A few after-breakfast presentations will enhance our knowledge and under-standing of what we will be seeing during our Moroccan Odyssey.

The trip is designed to be a small group experience, with a maximum of 18 participants. We encourage you to invite your friends! Registration for this exceptional travel experience is on a first come, first served basis.

I hope you will be joining me on this marvelous trip.

Moshe

Moshe Margolin, Director

JEWISH EXPLORATIONS

 

 

 

Itinerary

 

Monday, May 4th – Day 1 – DEPART FROM THE UNITED STATES

Take a direct flight from JFK on Royal Air Maroc to Casablanca.  

 

Mosque of Hassan II

 

Tuesday, May 5th – Day 2 – CASABLANCA/RABAT

Casablancalocated near the capital city of Rabat, is the main Atlantic seaport in Morocco and has a population of over 3,300,000 people. Not surprisingly, it has the largest Jewish community in the country.

 

 

 

Morning:     

We will arrive to the Mohammed V Airport, which is the country’s major gateway, in the mid-morning.

 

We will take a bus tour of the city which will include stops at the Beth El Synagogue and the Jewish Museum.

 

Afternoon:

We will have lunch together at SOC (Stade Olympique Casablancais).  After lunch, we will visit the Mosque of Hassan II. The Grande Mosquée Hassan II is the largest mosque in Morocco.

 

Once in a Lifetime Morocco Group in Beth El Synagogue-March 2019

Afterward, we will drive to Rabat (about 1 ½ hours).        

We will arrive to the hotel in the late afternoon.

Evening:   

We will have a Welcome Dinner where Mokhtar will present a Trip Overview.

 

Meals:  Lunch and Welcome Dinner

 

Overnight:  Riad Dar El Kebira or similar

 

Chefchaoun, the "Blue City"

Wednesday, May 6th - Day 3 - RABAT/CHEFCHAOUN         

Morning:

After an early breakfast at the hotel, we will board our motor coach and take a City Tour of Rabat. Rabat is the capital of the country. The two main attractions in the city are the Mausoleum of Mohammed V, the marble structure where the presents king’s father and grandfather are laid to rest, and the Kasbah les Oudaias, which was built on the site of the of the original fortress-monastery, the ribat, for which the city is named.

We will then set out for Chefchaoun, known as the Blue City.

 

Afternoon:

With a stop for lunch on your own along the way, we will reach Chefchaoun in the early afternoon. This fabled city is divided into two areas: the new city and the medina. A medina quarter is a walled section within a city that is found in many North African cities. It features large public buildings, gardens and winding narrow paths. This medina is said to be one of the loveliest in the country. Plaza Uta el-Hammam, with its cafes and eateries, is at the heart of the medina.

 

Evening:

The evening is at leisure.  Mokhtar will have suggestions for dinner.

Meal:  Breakfast 

Overnight: Riad Casa Sabila or similar

 

 

2019 Group at Volubilis

                           Thursday, May 7th - Day 4 MEKNES/VOLUBILIS/FES                                                                          Morning:

                          After an early breakfast at our hotel and a brief stop at Ras el-Maa, a waterfall just outside the northern gate to the city, we will travel to Fes via Volubilis and Meknes.

 

Volubilis is a partially-excavated Berber and Roman city. The site was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. Volubilis contains Roman remains of a fortified city built on a commanding site at the foot of the Jebel Zerhoun. According to UNESCO, its isolation and that it was uninhabited for nearly a thousand years validates its authenticity.

 

Afternoon:  

After our visit to Volubilis, we will visit the nearby city of Meknes. After lunch as a group in Meknes, we will visit Bab el-Mansour and the Jewish Quarter.  Bab el-Mansour is considered the grandest of all imperial Moroccan gateways. Completed in 1732, the dominant gate is now closed. Once the third largest mellah in Morocco, it is now in ruins.

Two striking features of Meknes are its huge royal stables, said to have held 12,000 horses, and its equally impressive grain storage facility, designed to feed the Sultan and his people even after a yearlong siege.

We will reach Fes in the late afternoon.

Evening:     

Mokhtar will provide suggestions to help you sample the city’s culinary delights on your own.

 

Meals:  Breakfast and Lunch

 

Overnight:  Sahrai Hotel

 

Ibn Danan Synagogue in Fes

Friday, May 8th - Day 5 - FES

Fes is in the northeast part of Morocco between the Riff and the Middle Atlas Mountains on the two shores of Wadi (valley) Fes. The city is located on two historic trade routes: from the Sahara to the Atlantic; and the Mediterranean shipping lanes. The population of Fes is about 2 million people with a tiny Jewish presence.

 

                  Moses Maimonides lived in Fes for five years beginning in 1160s. One of Jewish history’s most iconic figures, he studied medicine after being uprooted from his home in Cordoba. He moved to Egypt after leaving Fes.

 

 

Morning:     

After breakfast, we will then set out on a full-day tour of Fez.  Our stops will include the Jewish Cemetery, the Jewish Quarter, and the Ibn Danan Synagogue. The synagogue dates back to the 17th century. Over the years, it has fallen on hard times and has been subsequently refurbished.  The newly-renovated synagogue most recently reopened in 1999.

We will then visit the King’s Palace which is nearby the Jewish Quarter.

 

Afternoon:

After free time for lunch on your own, we will take a walking tour in the largest medina, or walled city, in North Africa. A medina quarter is a distinct city section found in a number of North African and Maltese cities. A medina is typically walled, with many narrow and maze-like streets.

 

 

Fes Cityscape

We will visit  a tannery and the Medersa Bou Inania. Originally built to house theology students, the building features a vast courtyard surrounded by two large halls that open onto an oratory at the end. There will be free time in the late afternoon.

Evening:

We will go to the Saadoun Synagogue for services. Afterwards will have Erev Shabbat dinner together.

Meals:  Breakfast and Erev Shabbat Dinner

Overnight:   Sahrai Hotel

 

Saturday, May 9th - Day 6 - SHABBAT IN FES

Morning:     

After breakfast, the morning is at leisure.

 

Afternoon:  

 

Mokhtar will give a presentation on MOROCCAN JUDAISM and then lead the group on a  2-hour walking tour of the cityThe late afternoon is at leisure.

 

Evening:     

The evening is at leisure.  Mokhtar can assist you in making plans for the evening.

Meals:  Breakfast

Overnight:  Sahrai Hotel

 

The Dunes at Merzouga

Sunday, May 10th - Day 7 - FES/MIDELT/ERFOUD/MERZOUGA                                                      

Morning:

After an early breakfast, we will board our motor coach for the 9-hour drive to Merzouga. This road trip is considered to be one of the most beautiful in the world.

 

 

 

 

Afternoon:  

We will then proceed to Midelt followed by a break for lunch on your own. We will continue on to Erfoud where we will visit the fossils cooperative. Then we will board 4 X 4s  to travel to the desert camp near the sand dunes of Merzouga.  

 

Evening:     

Dinner under the stars is planned (weather permitting). Musical entertainment will surely make this an evening to remember.

Meals:  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

Overnight:  Merzouga Luxury Desert Camp

 

Inside Luxury Tent at Merzouga
Moshe Margolin with Joe the Camel

Monday, May 11th - Day 8 –MERZOUGA/QUARZAZATE

Morning:

What would a visit to Morocco be without a ride on a camel?

After a cup of strong coffee, we will take camels for a short ride to see the sunrise on the highest dune of Erg Chebbi. After our camel ride, we will return to camp for breakfast.

 

We will then board our 4X4 back to Erfoud. Before leaving the town, we will stop at the Jewish cemetery with the Shrine of Rabbi Shmouel Abihatsera, one of the venerated Tsadikim in southern Morocco.

 

We will then drive the scenic road with a stop at the Thoudgha Gorges for lunch together.

 

Afternoon:

After lunch, we will then travel to Ouarzazate. It is located in the heart of the High Atlas Mountains With an elevation of almost 4,000 feet, it is known as the "door of the desert." The Ouarzazate area is a noted film-making location, with Morocco's biggest studios inviting many international companies to work there. You might recognize it from The Game of Thrones.

 

Evening:     

We will have dinner together at a local restaurant.

 

Meals:  Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner

 

Overnight:  Berbere Palace

 

Taourirt Kasbah in Ouarzazate

Tuesday, May 12th - Day 9 -QUARZAZATE/MARRAKESH

Morning:

After breakfast, we will board our motor coach and proceed to Marrakesh. The ride will take about 5 hours.  We will stop along the way for lunch at Kasbah Ait Ben Haddou, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

 

 

Afternoon:

Founded in 1070-1072, Marrakesh was for a long time a major political, economic and cultural center of the western Muslim world.

                      An ahead-of-its-time 11th century irrigation system made this desert city bloom.

Our stay in Marrakesh will give you an opportunity to look back to the rich Jewish history of the city and spend time with one of the city’s prominent Jewish families to learn about contemporary life of Moroccan Jews.

We will arrive to Marrakesh in the late afternoon.

           

Evening:     

Dinner as a group followed by an evening visit to the Jamaâ el Fna with its snake charmers and souk.

 

Meals:  Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner

 

Overnight:  Radisson Blu Hotel  

 

Slat Al Azama Synagogue

       

Wednesday, May 13th – Day 10 - MARRAKECH

Morning:

After breakfast at the hotel, we will take a bus tour of the city including visiting the Jewish Quarter, a 500-year-old synagogue and the Bahia Palace.       

Also known as the "Synagogue of the Dissidents,"  Slat Al Azama is the oldest and most picturesque synagogue in Marrakesh. It was built in 1492 by Sephardi Jews, fleeing Spain in the late 15th century after the expulsion. It is the only functioning synagogue in the city.

Built in the late 19th century, the Bahia Palace was intended to be among world’s most impressive structures. 

 

Afternoon:  

In stark contrast to seeing the historic Slat Al Azama in the morning, we will learn about contemporary Jewish life in the city during lunch at the home of the Halioua family, one of the Jewish community’s prominent families.

 

We will visit then world-famous Medina in the early afternoon where you will have time to walk around and do some shopping.

 

Evening:     

We will have the evening free. Mokhtar will have suggestions for dinner. 

 

Meals:  Breakfast and Lunch

 

Overnight:  Radisson Blu Hotel  

 

                   

The Port in Essaouira

                     Thursday, May 14th - Day 11 - ESSAOUIRA

Morning:     

After breakfast at the hotel, we will drive to Essaouira, the lovely seaport town. It 

has a quaint souk and relaxed atmosphere.  It's the ideal place to end our study 

tour before heading back to the United States. 

 

We will arrive in the late morning and check into our hotel.

 

Afternoon:  

After time for lunch on your own in the city's main square, we will take a walking 

tour of the city.  The late afternoon is a leisure in this picturesque setting.

 

Evening:

We will enjoy our Farewell Dinner at a local restaurant.

 

Meals: Breakfast and Farewell Dinner

 

Overnight:  L'Heure Bleue Palais

 

 

Friday, May 15th - Day 13 - ESSAOUIRA/CASABLANCA

 

Morning:

After an early breakfast at the hotel, we will leave straight away for Casablanca.

 

Afternoon:

 

We will arrive to Casablanca and check into the hotel with time to relax before Shabbat.

 

Evening:

 

We will spend Erev Shabbat with the Jewish community of Casablanca.

 

 

Meal: Breakfast and Erev Shabbat Dinner

 

Overnight: Hotel Kenzi Tower 

 

 

Saturday, May 16th - Day 12 -CASABLANCA/RETURN

 

After breakfast, you have free time until we transfer to the airport for your flight back to JFK.

 

Meal: Breakfast

THIS ITINERARY IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE

SNAPSHOT GALLERY 

MOROCCO STUDY TOUR

MARCH 2019

Our Tour Guide

 

Mokhtar Abouissaba was born and bred in Marrakesh. He is a well-respected Arab Scholar.

He has a B.A. in English and is a trained teacher.  He has taught in both Morocco and Libya. After supplementing his studies in History and Anthropology, Mokhtar decided to become a licensed tour guide.

As he gained in expertise and reputation, he decided to specialize in Jewish Heritage and Jewish Historical Sites in Morocco.

He is an accomplished lecturer and speaks on a variety of topics related to Moroccan Judaism.

Mokhtar is married with three children and makes Marrakesh his home.

Our Tour Escort

Moshe Margolin is the  founding Director of  JEWISH EXPLORATIONS. He holds degrees from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Teachers College, Columbia University.

His career in the field of Jewish Education spans four decades. He has held senior positions in both the United States and in Israel including the founding VP of Education for Birthright Israel and the Program Officer at the Fulbright Commission at the American Embassy in Tel Aviv. He has been associated with The Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Hebrew College in Boston and The Jewish Theological Seminary in NYC.

Moshe is married with three grown children and three grandchildren.

Mokhtar and Moshe Meet at the Airport in Casablanca (March 2019)

The Prices

 

LAND AND AIR:

 

$5,545 per person in a double room

 

$6,875 per person in a single room 

 

The price includes:

 

R/T Airfare JFK – Morocco.

 

All hotels and activities as cited in the Itinerary.

 

Meals (hotel breakfasts daily and 13 other meals - 7 lunches and 6 dinners - as indicated). Bottled sparkling and still water with included meals.

 

Bottled water on the bus.  

 

The services of a licensed English-Speaking guide specializing in the Jews of Morocco.

 

The services of an experienced tour escort.

 

Tips for meals provided.

 

Tips for the guide and driver.

 

Airport transfers in Morocco as noted.

 

The price does not include:

 

Expenses of a personal nature.

 

Meals not included in the Itinerary.

 

Travel insurance—highly recommended—available through the Gil Travel Group.

 

 

LAND ONLY:

 

$4,595 per person in a double room

 

$5,925 per person in a single room

 

ALL PRICES BASED ON A MINIMUM OF 10 PARTICIPANTS

 

MAXIMUM OF 18 PARTICIPANTS

 

REQUIRED DEPOSIT:

 

A $500 deposit per person is required upon Registration.

 

 

PAYMENT SCHEDULE AND REFUND POLICY:

 

 

Available as part of the Online Registration process.

 

Questions???

 

For Travel and Registration-Related Questions:

Contact

Ariel Lipszyc

Gil Travel Group

800-223-3855

ariell@giltravel.com

 

 

For Program Questions:

Contact

Moshe Margolin, Director

Jewish Explorations

866-898-0037

moshe@jewish-explorations.com

 

 

This program is copyrighted by Adult Jewish Learning Programs LLC.  Travel services for Jewish Explorations study tours are provided exclusively by the Gil Travel Group.

 

This program is copyrighted by Adult Jewish Learning Programs LLC.  Travel services for Jewish Explorations study tours are provided exclusively by the Gil Travel Group.

 

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