Tag Archives: Essaouira

Images of Morocco-Mogador and the Jewish Heritage of Essaouira

 

One morning we wandered around the medina looking for the old Jewish quarter. Essaouira used to be called “Mogador” and was home to a mostly Jewish population who settled here to handle trade with Europe. In the late nineteenth century, there were 38 active synagogues and almost 20,000 Jews who made up the majority of the city’s population . Around the 1950s, the Jewish people left to resettle in Israel and the synagogues are now largely gone.

The first synagogue we found, the Simon Attias Synagogue, built in 1882, was closed on the day we visited. Its entryway can be seen in the featured photo above, as Howard knocked on it to see if the synagogue was open. It wasn’t. Walking down the Rue du Mellah, still in the old Jewish quarter, we found the old community synagogue, Slat Lkahal which was built circa 1850, see first and last photos in the gallery above. The synagogue’s original arc, shown in the last photo above, came from the Jewish community of Livorno, Italy, which had commerce dealings with Mogador in the nineteen century. The synagogue fell into extreme disrepair in recent years and now is being renovated by community and visitor donations. It is a beautiful and old place that hopefully will be refurbished in the years to come.

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Images of Morocco-Camel Riding on the Atlantic Coast

On the Atlantic coast south of Essaouira, we went for a camel ride one afternoon. The ride took us for hours along a desolate stretch of beach. It was a sunny but cool and windy day, with big rollers breaking just off the shore. I rode the lead camel, a big feisty guy who clearly was the boss of the caravan. We were the only ones on the beach that day until a couple hours into the ride when we came across a group of young camels. Hassan, the young Moroccan guiding us, explained that the camels were owned (not abandoned) and allowed to roam free in this remote area. The youngsters were curious or territorial or both, we weren’t sure which, about our group and approached us. My guy started to get riled up to fend them off. But before things got too exciting, Hassan yelled away the intruders.

Hassan guided the camels with a quiet voice and light taps from a stick. He sometimes led them by the halter. They listened intently to each word and sound, pricking up their ears. And they listened for hours as we traveled until sunset. When the ride ended, the camels lay down to let us off. Then, Hassan untied each one and let them free to walk home on their own, with him following.

I was struck by the close bond between Hassan and his camels and how they worked together. I was also struck by the intelligence and quirky personalities of the camels, and how well Hassan knew them in order to guide them so quietly and gently. I was also struck by just how big those guys were! Definitely a highlight of our trip.

Credit for the camel ride photos goes to Mustafa, our guide, who recorded the journey for us on our camera.