Essaouira Mogador is a town at the Atlantic coast of Morocco

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Jews and Mellah

What is the meaning of the word "Mellah"?

There is a judeo-arabic letter from 1541 in which the word “mellah” has the meaning " place where the Jews lived".

Another more recognized explanation is that the word " mallâh " means "salt", in arabic. When muslim soldiers and warriors came back from battle, they would bring back the severed heads of their ennemies as trophies. A task forced upon the Jews was to salt those heads so that they would be preserved impaled.


Wandering Through the Mellah
(August 22, 2018 World Monuments Fund )

Jewish Quarter of Essaouira ( WMF)




Mellah Today

Mellah 2013

Destruction of old houses in Mellah
Rabbi Haim Pinto Synagogue in danger.

More pics here!




Rue du Mellah

MOGADOR Rue du Mellah


Jewish wedding by Delacroix

Jewish Wedding in Morocco by Eugène Delacroix, Louvre, Paris

Eugène Delacroix assists Tuesday, February 21, 1832 in Tangier at a traditional Moroccan Jewish wedding (called henna). The painting was begun in 1835, completed in 1839. Presented at the Salon1841, it was bought by Louis-Philippe before entering the Musée du Luxembourg. Delacroix had charged Planet Louis, his colleague and student, to make him acopy, remained in the artist's studio until his death (number 244 of the posthumous sale,awarded to Bornot). During the war, the Jewish wedding in Morocco has been kept since 1941 at
Castle Bétaille and was back in Paris June 20, 1946.

Les Juifs amazigh du Maroc
dans la peinture d'Eugène Delacroix

Noces juives au Maroc : Interpretation (

A jewish funeral


In 1809 the Sultan Moulay Slimane settled the Jews
in the new quartier Mellah Jdid. The old Mellah (El Qdim) was situated i the centre of the town bewtween the Kasbah and the actual Mella Jdid.

Mellah Essaouira

Mellah Jdid
Essaouira 2008

Houses in Mellah fall apart

Abandonned houses now slowly fall apart in the mellah, caused by the weather and the sea or the theft of wooden floor boards.

Quartier Mellah

Quartier Mellah
March 2012

Locate this sight on the Map of Essaouira Medina

The entry to the Mellah

Locate this sight on the Map of Essaouira Medina

Mellah is a walled Jewish quarter of a town, a ghetto. Jewish population were confined to mellahs in Morocco beginning from the 15th century and especially since the early 19th century.
The term mellah connotes not just the physical space where jews lived but also the communal space of the Jews. The mellah was usually walled with a fortified gateway. Frequently, the mellah was located to a corner of the city, having its own gates, allowing full segration between Jews and Muslims.
The system of isolating the Jews was both discriminatory as well as a method of protecting them from Muslim violence. The rule was that the gates to the mellah were closed during night.
In many places around Morocco, the Jews lived in Muslim quarters. Still, Jews did not enjoy the freedom of Muslims.

"We could see them take off their black shoes /outside mellah/ as a distinction with the muslims who alone were allowed to wear yellow shoes..."


The Sultan Sidi Ben Abdallah (1757-1790) also settled a large number of Jewish merchant families (the tujjâr al-sultân , or “sultan's traders”) in Mogador in order to take better advantage of their business connections with Jewish merchants in European cities such as Livorno, Liverpool, and Amsterdam. By the late 18th and early 19th centuries Mogador was the only port (outside of Tangier) that was open to European trade. This protected trade status attracted British merchants, who settled in the Kasbah and a large Jewish community, 40% of the city's population was Jewish. When the city's first mallâh , Mellah Kedim, became too small, a new Mellah was built.


Essaouira's economy was dealt a major blow between 1948 and 1967 when most of its remaining Jewish population emigrated to Israel, France and Canada. Space in former Jewish neighborhoods was then filled with rural migrants.

Socially segregated -
but in peace

Essaouira used to be an example of a small Arab town in which Muslims and Jews lived side by side in both rich and poor districts, working together but socially segregated - and in peace.
It was unique because there were almost as many Jews as there were Muslims, so the term "minority" did not really apply, as it did in every other town and city in Morocco and everywhere in the Arab world.

Jewish historical sights in Essaouira

Rabbi Chaim Pinto
Grave, home and synagouge is preserved as religious site

Simon Attias synagogue
Built in 1882

The Jewish cemetery

Locate this sight on the Map of Essaouira Medina

Jewish merchants

Jewish merchants



"As soon as he arrived in Mogador, he discovered that life in the mellah was even more miserable than in his hometown. He lost his wife and five of his seven children to the tuberculosis epidemic in the area, and the two survivors - two boys - decided to join their cousins in Brazil, where they successively became nut farmers, rubber producers. and mountebanks on the Amazon. They regularly sent money and parcels through couriers who were the link between Brazil and Tangier."



A street in the Mellah

Rue du Mellah




1438: The first mellah is established in Fez.
1465: A majority of the Jews of Fez are massacred by Muslim thugs.
Mid 16th century: A mellah is established in Marrakech
1682: A mellah is established in Meknes.
Early 19th century: Across Morocco, Jews are forced to settle in mellahs, many newly established.
Mid 20th century: Large-scale emigrations of Jews from Morocco to Israel; houses and property are abandoned, usually without compensation, and left for the Muslim locals. The mellahs become Muslim neighbourhoods.

Street Mellah
Street in the Mellah 1935


Moroccan Jews of Mogador 
Stephen Graham


MOGADORPorte du Mellah

Mellah of Mogador

Mellah old


Photos of Mellah , Essaouira, 11 October 2013

The Haim Pinto Synagogouge in Essaouira Mellah

Entrance of the Synagogoue Rabbi Haim Pinto

Read more about Rabbi Haim Pinto and the synadogue in : Jewish Historical Sites

Synagouge Rabbi Haim Pinto


Rabbi Haim Pinto Synagogue

The entrance of the Rabbi Haim Pinto Synagogue
Mellah Jdida Essaouira 2010

The rabbi Haim Pinto Synagouge building in Mellah

The synagogue building in Mellah 2009

See Panoramic pictures from interior of the Synagogue (extern link)
and pics from the home of Rabbi Haim Pinto.




Synagogue Rabbi Haim Pinto

11 10 2013

Mella destruction

Mellah destruction

Wood from houses


The building far left is the old Jewish school. which is in a good condition.




Liens en français

Jewish Quarters of Essaouira
2018 World Monuments Watch


Les mellahs : Histoire des quartiers juifs au Maroc

La fin d’un Mellah par Omar LAKHDAR

Furtifs souvenirs juifs dans les mellahs du Maroc

Petits métiers du Mellah

Les Mellahs marocains

Derrière les remparts du Mellah de Marrakech

Le Mellah, l’ancien quartier juif de Marrakech

Une visite au Mellah de Marrakech, par Izza Amiz

La noce juive au Maroc

LE MELLAH ET LES FÊTES JUIVES, par Therese Zrihen-Dvir

Les Mellahs marocains






Le mellah d'Essaouira (VIDEO)


Mellahs du Maroc (VIDEO)

La vie du juif marocain au mellah au debut de 20eme siecle (VIDEO)

Visions Marocaines : la vie au mellah (VIDEO)








Jews and "Mellah"

External links

Moroccan Jews


Map of Mellah

Jewish Virtual Library

The last Jews of Essaouira

Le Mellah

Controversé Forum

Etymologie obscure
du mot Mellah


Les Mellahs marocains (

Mellahs du Maroc
Video Flash