Catch the ghosts of the past on the streets of this former Jewish district of Marrakech. Mellah used to be Jewish, but not anymore. A lot has changed since the 16th century, the area is Muslim now, and all the Jewish people have moved to Casablanca, Israel or somewhere else. According to the reports, only 250 of them are left.
This used to be a flourishing area with top skilled bakers, tailors, jewelers, and sugar traders among others. Lots of them used to be quite wealthy, that’s why Sultan Abdallah decided to squeeze them all in one place – for easier financial control, just outside of the Royal Palace. The ones who committed some sort of felony were decapitated and rubbed the salt (mellah) onto their foreheads.
We started our walk from the Bahia Palace. Built in the 19th century and formally a harem, it is now abandoned. You can wander around empty halls and rooms with no furniture and only occasional traces of craftsmanship, like mosaics or craven wood doors. Obligatory orange trees are present in the garden, along with a multitude of cats who are surrounded by the crowds of tourists. There are no dogs on the streets of Marrakech, only unwashed and often damaged in fight cats. The rest of the tourists are enjoying tranquility (the territory of the palace is vast and there is no hustle of the outside city) and writing something in their diaries. P. Diddy once celebrated his birthday here, I bet his design team had to put a lot of effort into making this palace alive once again.
Our next stop was Lazama Synagogue. It’s quite easy to find because the directions are marked on the walls.
On the entrance there is a police man and a few young hustlers asking for the entrance money. But I didn’t give in to that because both of my tourist guides clearly stated that the entrance was supposed to be free. We argued for a while, and they let me in free at the end, after a silent sign from the policeman I think. There is not much to see inside anyway, the courtyard is very small, with mosaic floors and a small fountain without water. But it was refreshing to see so much blue color for a change.
After that we just wondered around the derbs (alleys) which are even dirtier and dustier than the rest of the streets in town. The views are pretty much the same: street vendors (with sofas on sale for a change!), children, donkeys, and people chitchatting.