The Jewish Quarter (Mellah) and Medina of Essaouira, Morocco
We entered Essaouira through the Bab El Minzah, the main gate. Waves of deja vu washed over me at first sight. All the narrow passageways, squares and color blue. Was I back in Spain? On the Cote Basque? Tunisia? Whatever country I was in, it was love at first sight. I must come back to Essaouira and spend days walking the little streets. No automobile traffic is allowed within the Medina, but hundreds of bicycles and people pulling carts take up the entire width of the streets. Be careful not to be run down by one of these.
Up and down small streets and into large squares with even more little street-like alleys…View image… radiating in all directions with people selling bread…View image, heaped up spices…View image, souvenirs, antiques and brightly colored rugs hanging. Prepare to get lost even with a map. I know we did. Purely by accident, we found one of the old ruined synagogues thanks to a man sitting on a stool who asked, “Are you looking for the synagogue?” They must think that everyone who visits Essaouira is looking for the Jewish Quarter and if they aren’t, it doesn’t hurt to ask. A person wouldn’t have supposed this was anything more than a dilapidated building and then we had to enter his shop strictly as a courtesy…View image. Aziz warned the group not to explore the extremely narrow streets of the Mellah (old Jewish Quarter) at night. Walking this way and that way, we wandered into the Mellah, found again just by accident.
Moroccan Jews were encouraged to settle in Essaouira and handle trade with Europe. Jews also comprised 40% of the population with an equal amount of Muslims. Because of this, the word “minority” really didn’t apply with everyone coexisting side-by-side, in peace. The Mellah (Jewish quarter) contains many old ruined synagogues.
There is way too much to assimilate with visual stimuli surrounding us in the Medina. There are bright blue windows…View image, doors with designs…View image, lintels dated 1338…View image, babouches…View image, and one dealer even specialized in posters of Bob Marley.
The shopkeepers are much more relaxed here. No hassles and no demands for money when people take photos, and believe you me, the streets are loaded with tourists from all over the world clicking away. I took at least 40-50 shots just in the afternoon with a free day ahead tomorrow to continue going crazy.