- Abandoned Village at Toughan
Midway along the main road between Taznakht and Taroudan in the region of Tallouine, an abandoned village suddenly comes into view to the west. The outlines of about 30 crumbling old homes dot the crest of a hillside. A series of terraces once used for farming descend toward the green riverbank below, where olive trees and saffron grow.Whose abandoned homes are these and why is the village no more? The local legend is that the area, known as Toughan, once had a thriving Jewish community.
One day — decades if not centuries ago — news suddenly reached the village that a group of Muslims was coming to attack. The Jews promptly fled for their lives en masse to the town of Ighli n’Ogho, a center of Jewish life in the region located to the north.This account has not been definitively substantiated by historians. But locals Muslims today cite it to explain the mysterious abandoned homes atop the lonely hill in Tallouine.
- AIU School in Taroudant
The Alliance Israélite Universelle in Paris established over 150 Jewish day schools across the Middle East and North Africa between 1860 and 1960. In the southern Moroccan city of Taroudant, two Alliance schools were built. This video is of a visit to the original AIU campus, which opened in 1929, and is located just outside the Jewish cemetery on the southwestern flank of the walled city. A larger campus was built decades later in a different part of the town. Both school buildings are still used today as public schools, though they have no Jewish students. The Alliance ceased operations in Taroudant in 1964 after the community had disbanded.
- Baba Sali Home in Rissani
Enter the old mellah (Jewish quarter) of Rissani, a city in southeastern Morocco near the Algerian border, and explore its narrow alleyways in search of a famous home. Buried inside the mellah’s labyrinth is the former home of the Baba Sali (Rabbi Yisrael Abuhatzeira), an internationally renowned rabbi. Before he became an icon in Israel, France, and around the world, the Baba Sali lived on the edge of the Sahara desert in Morocco. In 1912, his brother was murdered in Rissani, purportedly sacrificing his life to a local chieftan so that the rest of the Jewish community could survive. The Baba Sali continued to lead the large Jewish community of the Tafilalet region of southern Morocco, training most of the rabbis in the area. In 1950, he sold his home to a Muslim woman and left for Israel.
After moving in, she recounts that the Baba Sali appeared to her in a dream and told her not to continue living there. She eventually vacated the home — which now sits empty — but opens it up so visitors can light candles by the well in the central courtyard. This video begins with a walk into the mellah via the main gate, which for centuries was locked at night to enclose the Jewish inhabitants.Visitors then proceed down a winding street until eventually arriving at the dark alleyway where the Baba Sali’s home is located. (To see a panorama of this site click here)
- Ighil’n'Ogho Mellah
Take a special tour through the mellah (Jewish quarter) of the village of Ighil’n'Ogho, in the southern Moroccan region of Tallouine. Raphy Elmaleh shows the former home of the village’s rabbi, who in an usual custom would keep the communal Torah scroll in his home rather than in the synagogue. Elmaleh introduces Zubeida, the haratine woman who today guards the town’s synagogue, which Elmaleh helped restore. He also chats with Zubeida’s brother, who worked on the restoration, and with an old man in the village who used to be the guardian of the mellah, making sure the Jewish quarter’s gate was locked at night. The man identifies individuals in old photographs from the village (seen at the beginning of the video) and points out the homes and stores of Jews who left 50 years ago.At the center of the drama in the village — once home to over 300 Jews — is the geniza (burial ground for old religious texts) located beneath the synagogue.
Muslim inhabitants of village recall that when the Jews left 50 years ago, they buried their books there and warned that no one should go inside; if anyone did they would be bitten by a scorpion and die. At the end of the video, Elmaleh reveals what happened the day he decided to risk his life to open the geniza. The result is a charming vignette that reflects the intricacies of Muslim-Jewish interaction in rural Morocco.
- Ouarzazate Mellah
In the 17th Century, the local ruler built a casbah (fortress) known as Taourirt (“Hill” in Tamazigh, the Amazigh language), and Jews soon established a mellah nearby. Many were merchants, peddlers, and jewelers. The original location of the mellah is believed to be within a few yards of the casbah, but, according to oral history, one of the quarter’s walls collapsed and a new mellah was built about 100 yards away. Almost no ruins of the old mellah remain. In this video, Raphy Elmaleh recounts his first visit to the city when he discovered the last Jew living in the mellah. Elmaleh also explains the architecture of the quarter and reveals what has become of the local synagogue.
- Telouet Salt Mine
Along the old camel caravan trail from Ouzerzazate to Marakesh — whose well-beaten path still marks the terrain — lies the salt-rich mines of Telouet. The area’s pinkish colored salt was prized for its medicinal properties, commonly being referred to as “live salt,” and was once able to command its weight in gold and was also traded for ivory. The region’s Jews were purportedly given the concession to operate the mines and subsequent salt trade by a certain pahsa (local leader) named Tahami, in deference to their success in helping make the local economy flourish through their involvement in the trade of grains, almonds, dates, and other essentials.