Monthly Archives: May 2015

Trip Advisor Awards Travel Exploration 2015 Certificate of Excellence

Travel Exploration Morocco Trip Advisor 2015 Award Winner

Travel Exploration Morocco Trip Advisor 2015 Award Winner

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TripAdvisor has awarded Travel Exploration Morocco Private Day Tours the 2015 Certificate of Excellence. This achievement is a direct result of Travel Exploration’s consistent great reviews from Morocco travelers who have shared their experiences on TripAdvisor’s website. The Trip Advisor Certificate of Excellence Award is a testament to Travel Exploration’s High Standards and Service provided for couples, family, and small groups tours who have visited Morocco with Travel Exploration.  The Trip Advisor award is given annually to exceptional travel agents and Morocco tour operators. TripAdvisor places a spotlight on businesses that are focused on delivering great service to customers.

Travel Exploration specializes in private, hand curated tours to Morocco. With offices in, Marrakech and Ouarzazate, the company offers on the ground full services inclusive of private, luxury transportation, local guided site seeing tours, stays at luxury riads and options for the active travelers.

The owner of Travel Exploration, Alecia Cohen, is a former magazine publisher, of Global Rhythm magazine and an executive who established Travel Exploration Morocco Private Tours with her Berber partner to show travelers the best of Morocco.  Inspired by her passion for Morocco’s combination of natural wonders, Imperial cities, UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and Berber villages, she delights in organizing comprehensive and personally curated original travel itineraries for cultured and educated travelers.

Mrs. Cohen  has lectured at the World Bank on Culture & Sustainable Development in Africa and has been featured in various print and television venues, including CNN Financial News, Entrepreneurial Edge, Crain’s, Entrepreneur, and The World.

With Travel Exploration Morocco Private Tours guests visit Arabo Andalous architectural sites in the Imperial Cities, majestic palaces, glorious houses of worship, opulent gardens and a breathtaking Sahara desert. You will taste Moroccan hospitality in Berber Villages and enjoy exquisite cuisine and elegant accommodations.

Our team of expert, licensed Multi-lingual guides and drivers will set in motion a memorable journey. As a member of the American Association of Travel Agents, Travel Exploration takes pride in our impeccable service and reputation. The company also donates 5% of all proceeds to Berber Villages through our charity Project Feed.

For More Information about Travel Exploration Morocco’s Private Tours to Morocco

Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.
Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Morocco Travel

Opening Night at the 21st Fes Festival of World Sacred Music

Fes Festival of Sacred Music, Opening Night - Photo by Lynn Sheppard

Fes Festival of Sacred Music, Opening Night – Photo by Lynn Sheppard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each year, the holy and ancient city of Fes, Morocco is host to the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music. This festival brings together sacred and world music from many different cultural, religious and musical traditions. This year’s theme, “Fes: An African Reflection” recalls how Fes was once the intellectual, cultural, spiritual and commercial hub of an Empire which traded and connected with its neighbors across mountains and deserts. The opening night of the festival, held on May 22nd at the magnificent Bab Makina venue, wowed the audience as they were taken across the borders of ancient empires to meet these fascinating peoples and learn their customs.

As the daylight dimmed and the swifts ceased circling over the rooftops of Old Fes, the last of the VIPs took their seats at the front of a sell-out venue for the opening concert of the 21st Fes Festival of Sacred Music. HRH Princess Lalla Selma – representing King Mohammed VI, who is patron of the Festival – arrived in a huddle of black-suited security in a stunning white and gold caftan, to a patter of applause and a burst of flashbulbs. Once the audience was settled, the welcome address was delivered in Arabic, English and French and our journey – in the footsteps of Leo Africanus (Hassan el Wazzan, 16th century diplomat, traveler and chronicler of Africa) – took us across North and West Africa, from tribe to tribe and tradition to tradition in a full circle until we returned back to the holy city of Fes.

21st Annual Fes Festival of Sacred Music, Opening Night - Photo by Lynn Sheppard

21st Annual Fes Festival of Sacred Music, Opening Night – Photo by Lynn Sheppard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This year’s opening night -for the 21st edition – was a true spectacle. As we journeyed southward, over 100 artists gave us a glimpse of the musical and cultural traditions along the way: from the Amazigh fables of the Moroccan mountains, to the Andalusian traditions of Fes. From the griot heritage of West Africa to the Simb Lion dance of Senegal. With each step along the journey, the backdrop – which began with Fes famous Bab Boujeloud gate projected on the walls of the Bab Makina – changed from Savannah to desert camp, to palm oasis and back to imperial city.

Moroccan oud master, Driss al Maloumi, opened the show with an Amazigh fable about a sad moon under a backdrop of a full moon and a starry sky. Then to follow, Amazigh songstress, Chérifa greeted the crowd.  A real highlight was the Masks of the Moon Bwaba Ritual, the group performing for the first time outside their native Burkina Faso. Their startling black and white costumes and the haunting melody of the percussion accompanied an incredibly energetic and ritualistic dance. On a gentler note, Malian Ballaké Sissoko, gave the audience a real treat as he appeared on stage with no less than 10 koras, of the Kora Ensemble of Bamako.

After a whistle stop tour of Africa, we arrived with Hassan al Wazzan back in Fez, at the tomb of Sidi Ahmed Tijani, founder of the Tijani Sufi brotherhood. The evening concluded with the Tijani brotherhood singing a song familiar to all the Fassi (Fes natives) in the audience.

The opening event certainly got the Fes Sacred Music Festival off to an impressive and inspiring start. Many of the artists present will appear at over 50 concerts and events over the 9 days of the festival until 30 May 2015.

Written by Lynn Sheppard 

Lynn Sheppard has lived in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast for more than 2 years, supporting local non-profits, writing and becoming an expert on all things Swiri (ie. Essaouiran). She blogs at Maroc-phile.com and for other travel industry clients.

For more information about the Fes Festival of World Sacred Music

Morocco’s Imperial Cities, Seaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villages, A Taste of Morocco, Magical Kasbahs, Ruins & Waterfalls, Absolute Morocco, The Best of Marrakech, Fes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

Leave a comment

Filed under Morocco Travel

Hindi Zahra Rocks the Essaouira Gnaoua Festival

Hindi Zahra, Gnaoua Festival 2015, By Lynn Sheppard

Hindi Zahra, Gnaoua Festival 2015, By Lynn Sheppard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The 18th Annual Gnaoua Music Festival took place in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast from May 14th -17th. Every year, the festival showcases the best of Moroccan Gnaoua musicians and a wide array of Gnaoua and world music. Gnaoua is a musical genre based in Sufi Islamic culture with its roots in sub-Saharan Africa. Moroccan and international artists are also invited to perform, often, in unique fusion concerts alongside Gnaoua groups. One of the most anticipated World Music acts at this year’s festival was Hindi Zahra, a Moroccan-born vocalist who played Essaouira for the first time.

Born in Morocco in 1979, Hindi Zahra (her stage name is an inversion of her real name) released her first album, Handmade, in 2010 to critical acclaim, winning various awards in France, where she has been based since 1993. Hindi Zahra sings principally in the unusual combination of the Berber language of Morocco and in English. In contrast to her Moroccan linguistic heritage, her musical heritage is an international mélange of folk, rock, jazz, soul and blues, as well as African, Spanish and Latin influences. The timbre of her voice and the fluidity of her movement reveal her North African roots.

Hindi Zahra, 18th Annual Gnaoua Festival, by Lynn Sheppard

Hindi Zahra, 18th Annual Gnaoua Festival, by Lynn Sheppard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Essaouira, the audience was treated to an early release of tracks from Hindi’s new album, Homeland, released in April 2015, as well as some popular favourites from her back catalogue. She strutted on stage, channelling a rock goddess persona, to open with To The Forces, a song, which celebrates the mountain Berbers of Morocco, strong and proud, living at one with nature, despite conditions of extreme poverty. The song is the opening track from Homeland, an album that was largely written in Marrakech, at the end of the promotional tour for Handmade. At this time, Hindi says, she was exhausted after 400 gigs in 2.5 years. She shut herself in a traditional riad (townhouse) with only an internet connection and her own creativity. The result is Homeland, an album conceived in and inspired by Morocco.

After a night of powerful funk, fusion, jazz and Gnaoua music from the likes of Gnaoua rock star, Maalem Omar Hayat and Nigerian Afro Beat drummer, Tony Allen, Hindi Zahra had a challenge ahead of her to maintain the energy of the night’s concerts and capture the attention of the Essaouira audience. She not only held her own, she rocked the main stage. Her lilting voice recalls Joni Mitchell or Norah Jones, but these comparisons belie her rock star presence, which is far larger than her petite frame would suggest. The locals were enthused by her Berber lyrics and she was clearly excited to be finally playing at Essaouira with such a wealth of new material.

The appeal of Hindi Zahra is in the way she embodies both fragility and strength and in the sheer diversity of her songs, which she writes herself. Her voice and her energy transform themselves effortlessly from the Latin rhythms of her big hit from her first album, Beautiful Tango, through the jazzy tones of Imik Si Mik from the same album and sung mainly in Berber, to Stand Up (from Homeland), which in Essaouira she performed to a ska/reggae arrangement with Mehdi Nassouli of Agadir. In Any Story, from the new album, Hindi Zahra’s voice haunts with a mystery that suggests an artist more experienced and accomplished than her years.

Hindi Zahra’s albums are available to download on I-tunes and on her website directly.

Written by Lynn Sheppard 

Lynn Sheppard has lived in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast for more than 2 years, supporting local non-profits, writing and becoming an expert on all things Swiri (ie. Essaouiran). She blogs at Maroc-phile.com and for other travel industry clients.

For more information about the Essaouira Gnaoua Festival

Morocco’s Imperial Cities, Seaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villages, A Taste of Morocco, Magical Kasbahs, Ruins & Waterfalls, Absolute Morocco, The Best of Marrakech, Fes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Morocco Travel

Boutique & Luxury Garden Hotels Essaouira, Where to Stay

Le Jardin Des Douar Boutique Hotel Essaouira

Le Jardin Des Douar Boutique Hotel Essaouira

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Essaouira is located on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast and offers a wide range of places to stay outside its charming medina. In the Essaouira countryside, just 15 minutes from the city center are several charming, boutique and luxury garden hotels that offer a calm respite for travelers who are looking for an Essaouira vacation. The medina is easily accessible for travelers who stay at boutique and luxury hotels in the rural region of Essaouira. Essaouira’s medina can be reached by private driver, “petit taxi” or by walking along the seafront promenade. Essaouira offers both adult and family activities such as horse back riding, cooking classes, biking, camel trekking by the sea, medina historical tours and golfing. Essaouira is also the perfect coastal town to visit on a Moroccan holiday and a great way to end a private Morocco Tour.

 

Top Boutique and Luxury Garden Hotels of Essaouira are:

Dar Caravane Boutique Hotel Essaouira

Dar Caravane Boutique Hotel Essaouira

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dar Caravane, A New Boutique Garden Hotel in Essaouira
Didier Spindler recently reopened Les Mimosas, now called Dar Caravane and named after his restaurant in the Essaouira medina. Dar Caravane is a boutique garden property located just 10 minutes drive from Essaouira on the road to Agadir. Restored with its original colors, refurbished souiri furniture and his own colorful paintings, Spindler offers guests a charmed stay at this garden hotel with terraces. Dar Caravane has a view of the sea, and serves up poolside lunches, art exhibitions and evening entertainment.

Dar Caravane has a total of 5 luxury suites and is divided into three Villas. Villa Bleue, Villa Rouge and a cottage, together make up the well-decorated suites called Bagatelle, Majorelle, Les Saintes, Marie Galante and Désirade. For family stays, Dar Caravane can also be rented out in its entirety.

 

Le Jardins Des Douars

Nestled in the hills of Essaouira, Le Jardins Des Douars is a magnificent sprawling luxury, boutique garden hotel that offers the perfect setting for honeymooners in winter and families in spring and summer. Sheltered from the high winds in by the Ksob Oued (river), Le Jardins is ideal for nature lovers and those looking for a private, luxury stay in Essaouira.

Le Jardins Des Douars has a large garden where travelers can enjoy the various flora and fauna of the region, take long walks or relax within the nooks and crannies of the Douar. This luxury Essaouira garden hotel offers a traditional Hammam, massages, and a hearth fireplace where guests can enjoy French influenced, Moroccan cuisine.

 

Les Jardins Villa Maroc Boutique Hotel Essaouira

Les Jardins Villa Maroc Boutique Hotel Essaouira

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Les Jardins de Villa Maroc

Les Jardins de Villa Maroc is countryside boutique, garden hotel created by the owners of Villa Maroc. Fully landscaped with olive and argan trees, Les Jardins is charming with its local architecture, a Mediterranean garden and a private pool. All rooms overlook the garden or terrace. Decorated with contemporary and traditional Moroccan décor Les Jardins de Villa Maroc offers a calm retreat from the lively Essaouira medina. Their restaurant serves traditional local cuisine and offers breakfast with homemade Moroccan specialties such as Moroccan flatbreads and pancakes. This full service boutique hotel in Essaouira also offers cooking classes, and a Hammam/ Spa.

Ryad de Vignes Le Val d'Argan Boutique Hotel Essaouira

Ryad de Vignes Le Val d’Argan Boutique Hotel Essaouira

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ryad de Vignes & Les Domaines du Val d’Argan
Ryad de Vignes is one a lush boutique garden hotel in the region of Essaouira set amidst a vineyard. Guests are privy to its enormous estate given Ryad de Vignes is well appointed in the heart of the Les Domaines du Val d’Argan vineyard. Les Domaines du Val d’Argan is the only winery in the region and was founded by a Frenchman over 17 years ago. Val d’Argan serves the region of Essaouira and Marrakech along with other Moroccan cities with their varied white and red wines made from its 35 hectare vineyard which produces over 100,000 bottles a year.

With stunning views of the countryside, the Ryad de Vignes, boutique hotel has a flowered garden and 5 spacious rooms set around a large swimming pool. Each room is uniquely decorated with different and has its own personality. Ryad de Vignes has a panoramic restaurant and shaded terrace serving traditional Moroccan cuisine prepared with organic produce grown on the estate, as well as wine from the estate. Ryad de Vignes ” Le Val d’Argan ” offers many activities, such as visits of the estate, horse-riding and massages with argan oil.

For more information about Boutique & Luxury Garden Hotels or an Essaouira Tour

Morocco’s Imperial Cities, Seaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villages, A Taste of Morocco, Magical Kasbahs, Ruins & Waterfalls, Absolute Morocco, The Best of Marrakech, Fes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Morocco Travel

Art Deco Casablanca: Must See Historic Buildings

Art Deco Facade, Casablanca

Art Deco Facade, Casablanca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prior to the establishment of the French Protectorate in Morocco (1912-1956), Dar al Bayda, as Casablanca was then known, was a modest port of a population of around 12,000. A few years into the Protectorate, this had increased 10-fold and has hardly stopped growing since. Today, Casablanca is Morocco’s bustling economic hub, home to many international companies and Africa’s biggest port and its largest shopping mall, Morocco Mall. For visitors to this metropolis, the big draw is the stunning Hassan II Mosque. However, the French left a significant architectural legacy. As you walk the streets, look up and around you beyond the crowds, the traffic and the hubbub of city life to discover Art Deco Architecture in Casablanca.

The drive to develop and expand Casablanca provided the impetus for a large urban development program at the start of the Protectorate era. This included wide city avenues, open squares and public buildings from which the ruling power could organise its realm. Back in Paris, the swirling loops of Art Nouveau were being superseded by the more angular shapes of Art Deco, which melded perfectly with Morocco’s indigenous geometry inspired by the Islamic edict against the depiction of the human form. A new architectural style was born: Mauresque blended traditional Moroccan designs and techniques of mosaic, plasterwork and wrought iron with influences from turn-of-the-century Europe, combining the straight lines of Art Deco with the sweeping curves of earlier styles.

Palais De Justice, Art Deco Casablanca

Palais De Justice, Art Deco Casablanca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of these buildings have been restored and are still in use. Others have suffered a less fortunate fate. Some of the best examples are around the large open expanse (now traversed by Casablanca’s modern tramway) of Place Mohammed V. Around the square, you can see the main Post Office (1918), the Palais de Justice (courthouse, 1925) and the Wilaya (administrative headquarters, built between 1927 and 1936). Pop into the Post Office to see all the original Art Deco fixtures and fittings still in tact. In the streets leading away from the square, look above the shop fronts and imagine the grandeur that these buildings represented in their heyday. The French planned this city as a showpiece, a statement of the potential of their African Empire and no effort was spared.

Post Office, Art Deco Casablanca

Post Office, Art Deco Casablanca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Several great examples of Art Deco Architecture in Casablanca are in an area to the east of the square, bordered by Boulevard Mohammed V to the north, Avenue Lalla Yacout to the south and stretching as far as Rue Ibn Batouta to the east. Admire the facades as you wander along Rue Idriss Lhrizi. Seek out the Hotel Guynemer on the parallel Rue Brahim Belloul and the Transatlantique on Rue Chaouia, or the Cinema Rialto on the corner of rue Mohammed el Qorri and rue Salah ben Bouchaib. The crumbling Hotel Lincoln, constantly the subject of a rumoured restoration program, sits opposite the Marché Central, at the intersection of of Boulevard Mohammed V and Rue Ibn Batouta; the Hotel Volubilis, on Rue Abdelkrim Diouri is thankfully the result of a successful one.

If you have longer in Casablanca and a keen interest in Art Deco architecture, you can take a taxi or the new tram to the Mers Sultan neighbourhood, to the south of downtown Casablanca. Largely shunned by today’s nouveau riche and not typically visited by the day trippers who crowd to the Hassan II mosque, this area is full of treasures ready for discovery. Some of the apartment blocks and villas echo the grandeur of Marseilles or Miami Beach. Here you will find the playground of the former French colonialists – the bars, cafes and cinemas, but their wealthy clientele are long gone. Hunt down the Café Champs Elyssée, built in the shape of a cruise liner; the Cinema Lynx and the Bar Atomic.

For a luxury Art Deco have your Morocco travel agent book you into Le Doge Hotel & Spa, a boutique hotel located in a historic villa just 10 minutes from the corniche and 5 minutes from La Squala historic fortifications.

Le Doge Hotel & Spa Casablanca

Le Doge Hotel & Spa Casablanca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Moroccan government is pouring money into the regeneration of Casablanca and one can only hope that some of these Art Deco buildings can be rescued and restored. Casablanca is a city of extremes – the wealthiest business moguls reside in new villa developments along the coast, while the poorest rural migrants scrape a living around its large shanty towns. It seems that modern Casablanca never stops moving. However, if you look carefully, slow your pace and look up above the grimy ground floors and beyond the botched renovations, you will discover the city’s former glory of Art Deco Architecture: the brass, the parquet floors and the chandeliers just need a spit and a polish to shine once again.

Written by Lynn Sheppard 

Lynn Sheppard has lived in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast for more than 2 years, supporting local non-profits, writing and becoming an expert on all things Swiri (ie. Essaouiran). She blogs at Maroc-phile.com and for other travel industry clients.

For more information about Casablanca Art Deco Tours

Morocco’s Imperial Cities, Seaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villages, A Taste of Morocco, Magical Kasbahs, Ruins & Waterfalls, Absolute Morocco, The Best of Marrakech, Fes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

Leave a comment

Filed under Morocco Travel

Remembering Jewish Essaouira, Heritage Sites & Synagogues

Muslims & Jews in Essaouira, Praying for Rain

Muslims & Jews in Essaouira, Praying for Rain

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Essaouira owes much of its past, present and future to its situation on a bay sheltered from the fierce trade winds of the Atlantic Ocean by an archipelago of small, rocky islands. Towards the end of the 18th century, Sultan Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdullah (Mohammed III) created a strategic role for Essaouira in his new trade policy oriented towards the Atlantic. He instructed the construction of the Kasbah (King’s Quarters) and the Skala fortifications which became the basis for the medina (old city) we see today. He ordered the closure of Agadir harbor, further south, and effectively routed a large amount of trade between Europe and West and Central Africa through his new port. The Sultan was the first Head of State to recognize US Independence in 1776, thereby creating a strategic linkage in support of his trade objectives in Morocco.

In order to ensure the success of his strategy, Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdullah invited 10 prominent Jewish families from the key commercial centers of Morocco to settle in what was known then as Mogador and manage the trade. These families were largely the descendents of those expelled from Andalusia at the end of the 15th century and had gained a strong reputation for their skills as merchants. They became the “Tujjar as-Sultan“, the Sultan’s traders. These families – and many foreign consuls and negociants – settled in the newly-built houses of the Kasbah, which featured typical Swiri architecture of rooms set around a colonnaded interior patio, the latter often large enough to accommodate merchandise. Such buildings can be seen in the area near Bab el Minzeh and Bab Sbaa and along Rue Laalouj, where the French Institute and Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdullah Museum are excellent examples.

Chaim Pinto, Jewish Synagogue Essaouira

Chaim Pinto, Jewish Synagogue Essaouira

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the start of the 19th century, the population of Essaouira was majority Jewish. There were as many as 40 synagogues. Some, like the Simon Attia synagogue were the private synagogues of a large family, while others, such as the Slat Lkahal, were community centers of worship. As the affluence of the city grew, it attracted many migrants from the rural areas, seeking economic opportunities. The Mellah, a typical feature of a Moroccan city and a principally Jewish neighborhood, was built to house these families. Essaouira also had a Mellah Kdim, the “old Mellah”, which was an extension of the Kasbah and housed the Jewish middle classes. Mogador was unique in Morocco in that Jews, Muslims and Christians – those of Jewish, Berber, African, European and Arabic descent – lived side-by-side. There was a fruitful exchange at all levels of society, from artisans like silversmiths passing on their trade, to the interchange of intellectual and musical influences such as seen in the Andalusian music which continued to be taught and performed in Mogador long after the flight of Jews and Muslims from the Iberian Peninsula.

Jewish Cemetery, Essaouira

Jewish Cemetery, Essaouira

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today, there are a number of Jewish sites which can be visited and/or are under renovation in Essaouira. Essaouira’s two Jewish cemeteries are open to visitors by calling the number of the guardian posted on the door. The older of the two is only separated from the sea by a wall and is regularly inundated. It features the mausoleum of Rabbi Haim Pinto (1748–1845), which is the subject of a hilloula (pilgrimage) every Fall. The graves are often laid on top of each other and the inscriptions are no longer legible. All that remains are circular or triangular symbols indicating whether the occupant was male or female.

The ‘new’ Jewish cemetery, across the street, was opened in the 18th century to accommodate the growing population. It is the final resting place of a number of rabbis, intellectuals and musicians as well as many of the ‘ordinary’ residents of Essaouira-Mogador. The cemetery tells the stories of many great families of Mogador such as the Corcos, the most famous of the original ‘Sultan’s merchants’ and the Yuly and Levy families – some of whom are certainly ancestors of the first Jewish US senator, David Levy Yulee.

The guardian of the cemeteries can also grant access to the Haim Pinto synagogue, just back inside the medina at Bab Doukkala, in the Mellah. The neighborhood is part of an urban clearance program and the synagogue, although thoroughly renovated inside, sits in a precarious position surrounded by crumbling and decaying buildings, the former homes of Jewish families.

Slat Synagogue, Essaouira Restoration Project

Slat Synagogue, Essaouira Restoration Project

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just a few doors along, back towards the central medina, is Slat Lkahal, a community synagogue currently under painstaking renovation by Haim Bitton, helped by the generous donations of members of former Mogador Jews. Those who are lucky to meet him there will learn of the intricate connections between Jewish communities in Manchester, London, Italy and Mogador. So far, he has managed to rescue key elements of the original synagogue from demolition and is carefully restoring them using local artisans. He hopes to turn rooms on the upper floor into exhibition and meeting spaces.

Back in the Kasbah, the Simon Attia synagogue is the subject of an ambitious restoration program. Once also the Rabbinical Court of Mogador, the aim is to restore the space used for worship on the ground floor and create a library of documents related to Moroccan Judaism alongside accommodation for students of these works upstairs.

Most of Essaouira’s synagogues are long gone. Few have actually been demolished, but most have passed into alternative uses and only the older members of the Mogador Jewish diaspora recall their location. There are still plenty of clues to the size of the former Jewish population of Essaouira, however. A wander around the labyrinthine alleyways of the Mellah or Kasbah will reveal several doorways with the Star of David on the lintel and a conversation with any of Essaouira’s older residents will reveal the proximity and goodwill of the Muslim and Jewish communities in times gone by.

Written by Lynn Sheppard 

Lynn Sheppard has lived in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast for more than 2 years, supporting local non-profits, writing and becoming an expert on all things Swiri (ie. Essaouiran). She blogs at Maroc-phile.com and for other travel industry clients.

For more information about Essaouira Jewish Heritage Sites or an Essaouira Jewish Heritage Tour

Morocco’s Imperial Cities, Seaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villages, A Taste of Morocco, Magical Kasbahs, Ruins & Waterfalls, Absolute Morocco, The Best of Marrakech, Fes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

Leave a comment

Filed under Morocco Travel

Mohammed Choukri, A Post War Moroccan Writer

Mohamed Choukri, Tangier

Mohamed Choukri, Tangier

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Few Moroccan authors have achieved international recognition beyond the Francophone world because of the lack of translations of their works. The international acclaim of writer Mohammed Choukri and the fact that not only his works, but his remarkable life story, are known beyond the Arabic and French-speaking worlds is largely due to the support he received from globally acclaimed authors Paul Bowles and Tahar Ben Jelloun along with his own, incredible determination.

The man who was to become one of Morocco’s most well-known and controversial writers had inauspicious beginnings. He was born in 1935, in Beni Chiker (also known as Aït Chiker), a small village in Nador province, in the Rif mountains of north east Morocco, near the Algerian border. Life in such remote northern villages at this time – under the Spanish Protectorate (the French governed the area further south) – was harsh. The young Mohammed’s family was desperately poor and his father was a tyrant. Several of his siblings died of hunger, negligence or – in the case of his brother Abdelkader – murder at their father’s hands. The family moved to the cities of Tetouan and Tangier (at that time an International Zone) in search of economic security. Mohammed fled the family aged 11 to make his own life and adopted the name Choukri, a derivation of his home village.

Mohamed Choukri, For Bread Alone

Mohamed Choukri, For Bread Alone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a child, Choukri survived on his wits. Homeless and starving, he took small jobs to get by, but resorted to theft and prostitution to survive. He used drugs and alcohol and mixed with prostitutes, beggars and street dwellers, the existence of whom most wealthy Tangerois preferred not to acknowledge. His meals often came from the garbage – he found the trash of the International Zone far more nourishing than those of his Moroccan neighbors. This grim and desperate period of his life was the inspiration for three autobiographical works, the most well-known of which is his novel, For Bread Alone. The title is a reference to the lengths he had to go to just to get dry, stale bread to eat.

At the age of 20, in an exceptional demonstration of determination and foresight, Choukri took himself off to school. In the year of Moroccan independence from France and Spain, 1956, he left Tangiers for the quieter fishing town of Larache and at 21 began primary school for the first time. He eventually finished his schooling able to write in classical Arabic (which was neither his mother tongue nor the Moroccan dialect used in daily life) and became a school teacher himself.

Back in Tangiers in the swinging 60s, he continued to document his early life, often writing in cafes and bars, where he found himself brushing shoulders with European and American literati and liberals. It was a friendship and collaboration with the US writer, Paul Bowles, which facilitated the publication of For Bread Alone in 1973 in England.
Choukri’s shocking story was out there. Although it drew explicitly on the reality of his life, it was controversial and was condemned by conservative and religious commentators in Morocco. The French translation by Tahar Ben Jelloun, a Moroccan author well-known in his own right, ensured a broader audience on its publication in 1981. Although printed in Arabic in 1982, For Bread Alone was banned in Morocco until 2000. It was as if the educated – those who could actually read his work in a country with high illiteracy – could not accept the reality of poverty in their own, newly, independent country.

Choukri published several full-length works and short stories, often printed in English before Arabic. He was still writing in the late 1990s. He died from cancer in 2003 and was buried in Tangier. In a final recognition of his contribution to Moroccan and Arabic literature, his funeral was attended by the Minister of Culture, numerous government officials, personalities and the spokesman of the King of Morocco.
During his life, Mohammed Choukri claimed that he could not put a false veneer on his work, his writing was “a protest, not a parade.” He wrote in an attempt to expose and to criticize those people and the circumstances that he felt had stolen his childhood and his teenage years. US playwright Tennessee Williams described For Bread Alone as “A true document of human desperation, shattering in its impact”.

Written by Lynn Sheppard 

Lynn Sheppard has lived in Essaouira, on Morocco’s Atlantic Coast for more than 2 years, supporting local non-profits, writing and becoming an expert on all things Swiri (ie. Essaouiran). She blogs at Maroc-phile.com and for other travel industry clients.

For more information about Mohammed Choukri and Tangier

Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel.  We provide Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.

Leave a comment

Filed under Morocco Travel