Mellah of Marrakech

Trip Start Sep 19, 2007
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Trip End Jan 05, 2008


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Flag of Morocco  ,
Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Like most Moroccan cities Marrakech has a Mellah or old Jewish quarter dating from the days when Morocco had the largest Jewish population in the Islamic world.  There are few Jews left in Marrakech and the Mellah is now overwhelmingly Muslim, but there are still a few functioning synagogues and a Jewish cemetery called the Miara. 
The Miara is a strange sight of brilliant white rectangular tombs stretching into the distance.  I was the only one there at the deserted spot that afternoon. "Where have I seen this before?" I wondered, before the resemblance to the new Holocaust Memorial I saw in Berlin earlier in the year occurred to me, a monument that consists of similarly aligned granite rectangles of different heights for which perhaps the Miara was an inspiration.   
I was surprised by the number of tomb inscriptions in the Latin alphabet and how many pf them were quite recent, considering the exodus of most of the Jewish population from Morocco in the 1950s.  The young man who followed me in claimed to be the caretaker of the cemetery.  He told me the last burial took place only two months earlier and also assured me the packs of dogs roving about the cemetery wouldn't hurt me.  I was a bit suspicious as to whether he had any official function there when he asked me for a donation for the cemetery's upkeep.
"Ummm, I don't have cash.  Do you take plastic?" I asked jokingly.
"Oh, credit card....Yes!" as he pulled out a reader and card forms from behind the entrance kiosk's desk.
I couldn't help but giggle over how odd it was that the deserted cemetery was equipped to take credit card donations as I gave the young man twenty dirhams.
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