The Mellahs

The Mellahs, which were neighborhoods reserved for Jews for centuries, existed in almost all major cities of the Kingdom. These enclosures represent significant architectural testimonies of a bygone era and are now gradually disappearing.

The creation of the first Mellah in Morocco dates back to 1438 when the Jews of Fes, accused of desecrating a mosque, were forced to settle in a new neighborhood near a salt mine called “Melh” in Arabic, hence the name Mellah. This mine was located near the palace of the sultan, which provided them with permanent security through the palace guards. Another explanation for the origin of the word “Mellah” comes from an activity carried out by certain Moroccan Jews, in which they preserved severed heads in salt to display them to the public for as long as possible, especially the heads of rebels who revolted against central authority. This activity reached its peak during the time of Moulay Ismail.

Far from being ghettos, the Mellahs were vibrant with life. Their streets were bustling with commerce and housed specific trades that over time became specialties of the Jewish community. The dwellings were cramped and systematically included a shop on the ground floor, with large balconies on the upper floors open to the outside, characteristic of Jewish constructions.

The old Agadir before the earthquake also had its Mellah, mainly populated by Megorachim Jews from Spain and Portugal. The other territories in the Souss Massa region, such as Taroudant, Tiznit, Tata, and Tafraout, all had Jewish communities, often settled in Mellahs. The Jews and Berbers of the region have always lived in perfect symbiosis, with a shared daily life marked by tolerance, solidarity, conviviality, and good neighborliness towards one another.

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