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MAGICAL MOROCCO

A Jewish Renaissance Tour

in Association with West End Travel

Friday 23 February to Wednesday 7 March 2018

visiting Marrakesh, Ourika Valley, Essaouira, Casablanca, Rabat, Volubilis, Fez and then on to the lower and higher Atlas Mountains and wonderful desert experiences.

We will explore the fascinating past of the Jewish community, with its varied roots – Berber and Spanish – and its French affiliations. We will learn about its religion, culture and customs and enjoy an unforgettable Purim celebration with the Casablanca community. We will also visit other exceptional sites of beauty and historic interest. We will stay in excellent hotels, including a traditional riad, and have some stunning meals and experiences, including a 3-hour magical camel ride over Sahara at sunset. All the photos below were taken by participants in previous JR tours.

While we understand security concerns, our many previous tours to Morocco have convinced us that the discreet, yet strong, security provided for all tourist groups, is second to none. There is nowhere you will be safer.


OUR EXCEPTIONAL IN MOROCCO GUIDE RAFI ELMALEH

Rafi is a Moroccan Jewish tour guide specialising in the 2,000 year history of Morocco's Jews. After and a youth spent in England and some years in Israel, Rafi returned to live in Morocco. He has been at the forefront of an effort to preserve Morocco's Jewish heritage and keep the memory of former communities alive. You will see the results of his relentless efforts on the trip through Jewish sites around the country and the numerous artefacts he discovered displayed in the Casablanca Jewish museum he helped to create. A captivating speaker, he enthrals his listeners with remarkable stories and hilarious anecdotes. He is much loved in the Jewish and wider community and opens doors everywhere. He is co-author of Jews Under Muslim Skies, 2000 years of Jewish Life in Morocco, a copy of which he presented to King Mohammed VI.


Day 1: Friday 23rd February We recommend the EasyJet flight at 7.40am from Gatwick to Marrakech where we will be met by our guide Rafi Elmaleh and our transport will take us to our lovely Ksar Anika Riad in the mellah, the old Jewish quarter, for a buffet lunch followed by visit to the nearby Bahia Palace and to the medina, to be introduced to the few remaining Jewish traders, and to the cemetery. For those who wish to attend, there will be a Shabbat service at the Synagogue just five-minutes walk from our riad where we will return to enjoy a drink on the roof terrace to enjoy the view (below) followed by our Shabbat meal.

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Day 2: Saturday 24th FREE DAY though you might like to join the Synagogue service near the riad before our Shabbat lunch with Moroccan cholent. In the afternoon you might like to visit the Yves St Laurent Majorelle Garden or the famed Photography Museum and in late afternoon view the Koutoubia Mosque and Minaret at sunset from the nearby gardens and see the central square, Dj El Fina, by night, when the atmosphere is magical and there are many street performances to watch and street food to try.

Day 3: Sunday 25th A day trip to the Ourika Valley to see the waterfalls and the scenery. We visit the tomb of Rabbi Shlomo ben Hensh, now a pilgrimage site, and spend time in a typical village where our guide Rafi introduces us the to the Berber family he lived with for some time while doing research into Jewish life in the valley, who kindly allow us to look round their home (below).

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Day 4: Monday 26th We make a day trip to the unique coastal town of Essaouira, that once had the highest percentage of Jewish inhabitants in Morocco, where we see beautiful Cahim Pinto Synagogue in the Jewish quarter and the cemetery against the harbour wall. We have a BBQ fish lunch in the harbour, amongst the seagulls, and have time to stroll through the picturesque streets and visit the book/antique shop run by Essaouira’s last Jew. Buffet supper at our Riad.

Day 5: Tuesday 27th Free day with an optional special experience (£100 per person) either an afternoon or morning cooking course with the essence of Moroccan cuisine at the well-known Riad Arab. You will be taken round a spice market before making a meal in your own cooking work station culminating in returning in the evening to eat your own food, with Moroccan wine included, around a swimming pool. Otherwise a free day when you might have lunch or a coffee at La Mamounia Hotel with its lush gardens and décor and impressive gallery of eminent previous guests.

Day 6: Wednesday 28th We check out of our Riad in Marrakesh and drive to Casablanca. There we drive through the verdant suburbs with their impressive white villas, visit the Jewish Museum, where Rafi is a passionate guide to its engaging display of the rich Jewish life which existed throughout the country, and on to the French Colonial style city centre. Then to the Jewish quarter where we walk through the street of six shuls (where Rafi gives an entertaining account of the 5 he does not go to!), visit the kosher bakery where we have a chance to sample the local Purim fare (below), and then visit impressive Beth el Synagogue and one of the many Jewish clubs. We check in at Le Casablanca hotel. At 5pm we go to a Synagogue on the Corniche for a community Purim Party – where one wonderful dish follows another – and we join the community in dancing and enjoy the entertainment provided by their younger members.

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Day 7: Thursday 1st March  We drive to Rabat where we climb to the picturesque fortress overlooking the once Portuguese port and stroll through its gardens. We walk through the narrow streets of the mellah and see the synagogue and then visit the sumptuous King Mohammed V Mausoleum next to an imposing minaret and remains of an uncompleted medieval mosque. Then we have a short tour of the new and impressive National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, afterwards checking in at our lovely Sofitel hotel (below). We have a fish dinner at a restaurant near the sea.

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Day 8: Friday 2 March Leave to visit Meknes. This is another of the walled Imperial Cities. Here we visit a colourful spice market and see the mellah which once contained 11 Synagogues and visit a former Talmud Torah. Then we make our way to the famous royal stables of Moulay Ismail, who was a tyrant to his people but loved his 15,000 Arabian horses. Then we drive to the well-preserved ruins of Roman Volubilis (below).

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We arrive at the Hotel Palais Medina in Fez and then proceed to our Shabbat meal at the community’s Maimionide club, Chez Max. If you speak some French the locals will be pleased to talk to you about current Jewish life in the city.

Day 9: Saturday 3 March A free day with much to explore. You could join the Fez community at the Ben Sadoun synagogue in the modern quarter, built in the 1920s, it has beautiful traditional plaster tracery and a very Moroccan feel. Or you could stroll through the wide French-style boulevards, walk to the world’s biggest medina or just relax by the pool.

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Day 10: Sunday 4 March We spend the day in old Fez first in the mellah, the old Jewish Quarter, where we visit the extraordinary Jewish cemetery and hear the legend behind its most famous tomb (above), and then to the beautifully restored Ibn Danan synagogue and the Slat al Fassiyine, another small synagogue, whose recent careful renovation Rafi was much involved in.

Then to the medina, a world heritage site, where we meet our local guide Mohammed Cohen (he will tell us how that came about!) at the blue gate of Bab Boujeloud and with him walk through narrow streets and open markets, where donkeys are hard at work carrying supplies and it looks as if nothing has changed for 1,000 years. We visit Madrasa Bou Inania (below), a gem of Islamic architecture, and see craftsmen at work, including at the famous tanneries. In the evening Rafi takes us on a quick tour of the Ben Sadoun synagogue after dinner at the nearby Maimonide club.

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Day 11: Monday 5 March We leave early to drive over the magnificent lower and upper Atlas mountain ranges stopping at gorges and seeing striking Berber villages. In Errachidia we visit ‘Rafi’s synagogue’. It is no more than a mud hut, but has a plaque commemorating Rafi’s role about which we hear firsthand.

We reach our Xalacu Tamboctou hotel in time for an unforgettable camel ride into the beautiful talcum powder sand dunes. We have the unforgettable experience of sunset followed by shooting stars from the night sky and wonder at the incredible universe in all its glory.

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Day 12: Tuesday 6 March Another early departure to see the sunrise over the Atlas mountain ranges towards Marrakesh, arriving at Ouarazate where we see the sites of many Hollywood films and visit the beautifully decorated kasbah before reaching our luxury desert hotel Berber Palace, relaxing in its beautiful grounds before our final night meal.

Day 13: Wednesday 7 March We leave the Berber Palace and drive through spectacular scenery to arrive at Marrakesh airport in time for flights back to the UK.

COST
Sharing a double or twin room £2,195 per person, single supplement £995 covers excellent hotels, bed and breakfast, most meals, all transport, Rafi as guide throughout and all museum fees. This cost excludes the cost of flights which you will book yourself.

To reserve a place please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for a booking form. A deposit of £200 per person [refunded if trip does not proceed due to insufficient numbers] will be required to be sent to West End Travel who will be administering the trip. They will notify you once we have the requisite numbers and give the go-ahead to book flights. The trip is only open to subscribers to Jewish Renaissance magazine. You can subscribe online here or by telephoning 020 7794 5254.