Jewish Life in
Monday, May 4th to Saturday, May 16th, 2020
Invitation to the Study Tour
on Jewish Life in Morocco
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.
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, Erfoud, Ifrane, Midelt, Merzouga,
Ouarzazate, the "Blue City" of Chefchaoun and the quaint seaside town of
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
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,
Garden in Rabat,
the Medina in Fes, and
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 Margolin, Director
Monday, May 4th
– Day 1 – DEPART FROM THE UNITED
Take a direct flight from JFK on Royal Air Maroc to Casablanca.
Mosque of Hassan II
– Day 2 – CASABLANCA/RABAT
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
We will arrive to the Mohammed
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
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.
We will have a Welcome
Mokhtar will present a Trip Overview.
and Welcome Dinner
Overnight: Riad Dar El Kebira or similar
Chefchaoun, the "Blue City"
Wednesday, May 6th - Day 3 - RABAT/CHEFCHAOUN
After an early breakfast at the hotel, we will board our motor coach and take
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.
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.
The evening is at leisure. Mokhtar will have suggestions for dinner.
Riad Casa Sabila or similar
Thursday, May 7th
- Day 4 - MEKNES/VOLUBILIS/FES
After an early breakfast at our hotel and a brief stop
a waterfall just outside the northern gate to the city, we will travel to Fes via
Volubilis is a partially-excavated
Berber and Roman city. The site was designated a
UNESCO World Heritage
1997. Volubilis contains Roman remains of a fortified city built on a commanding site at the foot of the Jebel
According to UNESCO, its isolation and that it was uninhabited for nearly a thousand years validates its authenticity.
After our visit to Volubilis, we will visit the nearby
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
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
Mokhtar will provide suggestions to help you sample the city’s culinary delights on
Meals: Breakfast and Lunch
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.
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.
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.
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.
We will go to the Saadoun Synagogue for services. Afterwards will
have Erev Shabbat
Meals: Breakfast and Erev Shabbat
Saturday, May 9th
- Day 6 - SHABBAT IN FES
After breakfast, the morning is at leisure.
Mokhtar will give a
presentation on MOROCCAN JUDAISM and then lead the group on a 2-hour walking tour of the city. The late afternoon is at leisure.
evening is at leisure. Mokhtar can assist you in making plans for the evening.
The Dunes at Merzouga
10th - Day 7 - FES/MIDELT/ERFOUD/MERZOUGA
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.
We will then proceed
followed by a break for lunch on your own. We will continue on to Erfoud where we will
visit the fossils
Then we will board 4 X 4s
to travel to
camp near the sand
dunes of Merzouga.
Dinner under the stars is planned (weather
permitting). Musical entertainment will surely make this an evening to remember.
Overnight: Merzouga Luxury Desert
Inside Luxury Tent at Merzouga
Moshe Margolin with Joe the Camel
Monday, May 11th - Day 8
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
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.
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.
We will have dinner together at a local restaurant.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Taourirt Kasbah in Ouarzazate
12th - Day 9 -QUARZAZATE/MARRAKESH
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.
Founded in 1070-1072, Marrakesh was for a long time a major political, economic and cultural center of the western Muslim
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.
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
Slat Al Azama Synagogue
Wednesday, May 13th – Day 10 - MARRAKECH
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.
in the late 19th century, the Bahia Palace was intended to be among world’s most impressive structures.
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
We will visit then
world-famous Medina in the early afternoon where
you will have time to walk around and do some shopping.
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
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
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
We will enjoy our Farewell Dinner at a local
Meals: Breakfast and Farewell Dinner
L'Heure Bleue Palais
Friday, May 15th - Day 13 - ESSAOUIRA/CASABLANCA
Morning and Afternoon:
After breakfast at the hotel and a walking tour of the souk, you will have some free time to relax before we head to Casablanca.
Overnight: Hotel Kenzi Tower
- Day 12 -CASABLANCA/RETURN
breakfast, you have free time until we transfer to the airport for your flight back to JFK.
THIS ITINERARY IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE
Mokhtar Abouissaba was born and bred in Marrakesh. He is a well-respected
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
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
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.
married with three grown children and three grandchildren.
$5,545 per person in a double room
per person in a single room
R/T Airfare JFK – Morocco.
All hotels and activities as cited in the
(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
The services of an experienced tour
Tips for meals provided.
Tips for the guide and driver.
Airport transfers in Morocco as
The price does not
of a personal nature.
Meals not included in the Itinerary.
Travel insurance—highly recommended—available through the
Gil Travel Group.
$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
A $500 deposit per person is required upon Registration.
PAYMENT SCHEDULE AND REFUND
Available as part of the Online Registration process.
For Travel and Registration-Related
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
This program is copyrighted by Adult Jewish Learning Programs LLC. Travel services for
study tours are provided exclusively by the
Gil Travel Group.