Photo by: Ron Rosenstock
Location: Morocco
PHOTOGRAPHY TOUR

Morocco and The Jewish Spirit

Tour Designed for Worcester JCC Members

  • Unique visits encompassing the Jewish history and culture of Morocco with your expert Moroccan guide and Ron Rosenstock
  • Visit Beth-El Synagogue in Casablanca, as well as the Jewish Museum
  • Meet the local Jewish Communities in each amazing city as you visit the Jewish Mellah or neighborhoods
  • Historic sites in Fes, Meknes, Marrakech and Essaouira
  • Jemaa el Fna Square and the ancient city and souk of Marrakech
  • The heart of Morocco, medina of Fes el-Bali
  • Old historic medina of Meknes known as the Versailles of Morocco
  • Minimum 10 participants, Maximum of 20
Region

Africa

Destination

Morocco

Dates

February 18-26, 2023

Duration

8 days

$2995

per person, double occupancy*

*U.S. dollars based upon minimum of 10 participants. There is a small group surcharge of $ if participants. We try to accommodate travelers who request single accommodations, as well as travelers who are looking for a roommate. If a single room is requested (subject to availability), or if we are unable to find a suitable roommate, there is a single room surcharge of $345.

Tour Overview

If you wish to discover the rich Jewish culture and take a sneak peek back into time, then this is the Moroccan tour for you and your fellow members. Explore Moroccan Jewish culture and learn more about their rich traditions and heritage. This adventurous journey also introduces you to Arab culture in Morocco and the influences of the Berber, Spanish, Roman, and others who inhabited the region.

In a short visit to Morocco, the importance that Jews once played in the country is not readily...

If you wish to discover the rich Jewish culture and take a sneak peek back into time, then this is the Moroccan tour for you and your fellow members. Explore Moroccan Jewish culture and learn more about their rich traditions and heritage. This adventurous journey also introduces you to Arab culture in Morocco and the influences of the Berber, Spanish, Roman, and others who inhabited the region.

In a short visit to Morocco, the importance that Jews once played in the country is not readily apparent. Much of Jewish Morocco is hidden from view, but with the right guide, a tourist can gain both a rich understanding of the role Jews play in Moroccan society, and also of the fascinating role of Moroccan Jews in the Jewish world. Jews and Arabs lived a symbiotic existence until the middle of the twentieth century. Moroccan kings protected the Jews from harm and helped some of them develop the wealth that sustained the monarchy for many years.  Today, no more than 5,000 Jews remain in Morocco, compared to 300,000 in 1950.

They have preserved their ancient traditions and customs. As of 2004, Marrakech had an aging population of about 260 Jews, most over the age of 60, while Casablanca has between 3,000 to 4,000. The younger generation prefers to continue its higher education abroad and does not return ; thus, the community is in process of aging.

Meanwhile the State of Israel is home to nearly 1,000,000 Jews of Moroccan descent, around 15% of the nation’s total population. Before his death in 1999, King Hassantried to protect the Jewish population, and, at present, Morocco has one of the most tolerant environments for Jews in the Arab world. Moroccan Jewish emigrants, even those with Israeli citizenship, freely visit friends and relatives in Morocco. Moroccan Jews have held leading positions in the business community and government. The major Jewish organization representing the community is the Conseil des Communautes Israelites in Casablanca. Its functions include external relations, general communal affairs, communal heritage, finance, maintenance of holy places, youth activities, and cultural and religious life. Jewish schools and syangogues receive government subsidies.

We invite you, the inquisitive traveller, to join tour leader and photographer Ron Rosenstock on this unforgettable journey of Morocco. Fall under Morocco’s spell as you stroll through the bazaars, Berber villages, cobblestone streets of ancient medinas, all while exploring its Jewish heritage.

Ron started leading tours in 1967. In those years he has led over 200 tours to many international destinations and led tours to Morocco for the past 20 years. Ron retired from Clark University after teaching photography there for thirty years. His published books include his exquisite black and white photographs: The Light of Ireland, Chiostro (Cloister), and Hymn to the Earth. Ron’s work has been featured in over one hundred exhibitions, both in the U.S. and abroad, and his photographs are to be found in the permanent collections of the Peabody Essex Art Museum in Salem, Mass., Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University, the Worcester Art Museum in Worcester, Mass., The Polaroid Collection in Cambridge, Mass., and the International Center of Photography in New York City. Ron’s striking one-of-a-kind photographs can be seen at www.ronrosenstock.com.

Photo Leader

Ron Rosenstock

Dear Ron,

Thank you for such a fantastic photo tour! I found it was a perfect balance of photo opportunities and learning about Morocco’s culture, people, history and economy. As I’ve been reviewing my photos, I find myself saying, “Wow— we were actually there!” Your evening photo talks were useful and informative— they’ve helped me to become a more relaxed and better photographer.

Regards,
Joanne

— Joanne Shapiro

At the end of 2018, my husband, Mark, and I went on a 17 day tour to Morocco with Strabo Tours. Led by renowned photographer, Ron Rosenstock, cultural ambassador, Ismail Bourqqadi, and our excellent driver, Yassim, we journeyed by van from King Hussan II’s amazing mosque in Casablanca to the enchanting blue town of Chefchaouen and then the tannery, weaver and pottery workshops of Fes. After traversing the snow capped Atlas Mountains, we slept 2 dreamy nights in desert tents after walking on foot and riding camels in the Merzouga dunes.

Next we travelled through the Land of 1000 Kasbahs, stopping at abandoned, but perfectly preserved shrines; fossilized marble, rug and spice shops; Yves St. Laurent’s Cactus Garden, and the Marrakech Medina with its’ musicians, snake charmers, etc. Lastly, 5 of our band of 7, went on an extended jaunt to the beaches of Essaourra, where Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley and Cat Stevens used to hang out and saw nearby goats in argon trees.

Needless to say, it was the trip of a lifetime! There was plenty to eat, the lodgings were fantastic (often hidden in fountained courtyards behind busy alleys), but most important were the Moroccan people and places, that anyone would appreciate experiencing, but are especially inspirational to artists. We were the only couple and Mark was the only one without professional photographic equipment, but he took great pictures with his iPhone and we all enjoyed each other’s company. With Ron’s 20+ years taking artists all over the world, no matter where you go with him, you’re bound to have an incredible time. His Ireland trip should be special, because he had a house there for many years and really knows the lay of the land.

— A Dunkelman

Trip was a 10! I think the Sahara was the best. Loved sleeping in berber tents. The photography was gorgeous and many wonderful photo opportunities. Ron always knew where to be when for best photographs. I’ve known him since 1982 when I went to Ireland, and I always wanted to do his Morocco trip after seeing photos and notices on Facebook from him. His energy, enthusiasm and humor was contagious. I liked his photo talks every so often as he wanted us all to see different things and find our own vision. He showed us examples of his work and other photographers that influenced him. Always informative of our daily activities and culture of Morocco. I loved the variety of hotels and lodges.

— A Converse

My recent experience in Morocco was enriched by the kindness and friendliness of its’ people. Never did I feel any concern about being an American in a Muslim country. I was struck by how profound, personal, respectful, and diverse their religious connections are and felt privilegedthat I could meet and be in an Islamic community that is far different from what is portrayed in the news media. Along the way I met and spoke to many Israeli tourists who see Morocco as a “must visit” place to go.

— S.W. Pitlik

Ron was great, not only was he open and knowledgeable as an instructor, but a wonderful person. Couldn’t have asked for better.

— N. Taveras

The Town of Chefchaouen was the highlight of the trip, a delightful place. Hope you keep it on your itinerary.It is obvious that Ron loves what he is doing. From start to finish he is helpful, knowledgeable, gets to know everyone and gives extra assistance where needed.

— K. Clarkin

We found the Moroccans to be hospitable and friendly, who are proud of their country and love their King. Our marvelous guide Ismail was about the best we have ever known, and we are experienced travellers. The country is exotic and beautiful – a must see! We felt safe at all times.

— T. & J. Beers

Tour Itinerary

February 18: Home

Depart home today on your overnight flight to Marrakech, Morocco. Arrival time tomorrow by 10AM. If you would like to add on day(s) to get over jet lag and spend additional time in Morocco, please contact Strabo Tours and we can make recommendations.  (Meals on Plane)

February 19: Marrakech-Essaouira

After an early arrival depart for Essaouira, a seaside fishing town known for its Portuguese and Jewish history as well as its charming blue and white hand-painted houses, fresh seafood and artist community.  Many of Essaouira’s painted houses still have the Star of David above their doorways. Each year religious Jews from around the world come to Essaouira for an annual pilgrimage to visit the grave of Rabbi Haim Pinto who passed on in 1845. The hiloula celebrating Rabbi Haim Pinto is also held here, in which his home and the synagogue have been preserved as a historic and religious site. A generation ago there were Jewish inhabitants in Essaouira however, today there is just one family left. Jacky Kadoch is the president of Essaouira’s Jewish community. Overnight Essaouira (L, D)

February 20-21: Marrakech

Enjoy a bit more of Essaouira this morning with your local guide and Ron. Return to Marrakech mid-day and tour the wonderful old spice market. Then move on to the Jewish Mellah of Marrakech, founded in 1558 by Moulay Abdallah. This famous city also houses the El Bahia Palace and the Lazama Synagogue in the Old Medina. The Jewish community enjoyed autonomy even though Jews weren’t allowed to own any property outside of the Mellah and they controlled the sugar trade. You will also visit the Synagogue Bet-El, Impasse Des Mouline-Gueliz and the Saadian Tombs. Traveling to Marrakech would not be complete if you don’t see the famous Jemaa el Fna Square. This evening or tomorrow evening you can enjoy a cup of tea while watching the square come to life.

Another full day in Marrakech brings you to a famous historical landmark hotel and gardens in the center of the city, the La Mamounia Gardens. It is cared for by 40 gardeners who plant 60,000 annuals to enhance the grounds as well as maintain the immaculately mowed grass under the citrus and olive orchards, desert, tropical and rose gardens. The 200 year-old avenue of olive trees leads you to the garden pavilion where you can soak in the peace and solitude with a cup of Moroccan mint tea. Continue on to meet Abderrazzak Benchaabane, a Marrakech legend. Quiet and soft spoken, this renowned gentleman is a garden designer, ethno botanist, perfumer, teacher, photographer, writer and publisher. His property includes converted stables that house his private collection of Moroccan modern and contemporary art. Overnight at a Boutique Hotel or Riad in Marrakech (B, D ; B, L)

February 22: Beni Mellai

Outside Marrakech the city of Demnate sits at the foot of the Atlas Mountains. It has an important Jewish community whose members settled there in the early 12th century, living with both Berber and Muslim resients. While many of the medina walls and old architectural splendors have been left to crumble, you can still get a feel for how grand the area must have been in times gone by. See how locals live and observe djellaba-wearing men chatting outside small and smoky cafes, and browse goods in the local souks (markets). The old Jewish quarter of the Mellah is especially atmospheric.

Continue on to Beni Mellai, nestled between the Atlas and Middle Atlas Mountains. This is largely an agricultural region where you can see the Berbers from the mountains and Arabs from the plains meet at the souk to sell their respective goods. If the weather cooperates there may be time to see the Ouzoud Waterfall cascade in the El Abid River Gorge. Overnight Beni Mellal (B, L)

February 23-24: Fes

On the way to Fes you will stop in the ‘Little Switzerland’ of Morocco to take a short walk around the gardens of the University in Ifrane. This Moroccan town has a remarkable European style as it was developed by the French.

After checking in to your lovely Riad there will be time to settle in, rest and then begin your tour of Fes. Fes is among the best known cities in medieval Jewish history, founded by Idriss I in the eighth century. This guided historical tour of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites will be combined with sight-seeing of synagogues, mosques, cemeteries, the Mellah along with gardens and palaces. Your guide will offer a connective link between Muslim and Jewish Morocco.

In contrast with the younger Mellah of Casablanca, the Mellah of Fes is over 650 years old, and at one time housed 40 synagogues. This picturesque neighborhood adjoins the royal palace, noted for its recently constructed bright brass doors. Jews took shelter in this palace during the 1912 uprising, by which Morocco became a French protectorate. The nearby cemetery contains the tombs of more Jewish saints than any other cemetery in Morocco. One of the more important saints is Solica, who was killed for refusing to convert to Islam. The Ibn Danan Synagogue is one of the oldest and most intact synagogues in Morocco. This synagogue, located in the heart of the Mellah (Jewish quarter), is a rare survivor of a pivotal time in Moroccan Jewish history.

Throughout the old city of Fes, there are traces of ancient Jewish life, including the home of Maimonides, who lived in the city from 1159-1165. Suffering from the persecutions of the Almohad dynasty, Maimonides emigrated to escape forced conversion. In the face of a declining population, the Jewish community of Fes is working hard to maintain its community spirit and preserve its heritage and traditions. The community center, Centre Communautaire “Maimonide,” is one of the most well organized in Morocco, with a kosher restaurant and modern synagogue on the premises.

Other sights may include the Jewish Museum at the Em HaBanim synagogue, and there is a wonderful Weavers Cooperative, giving us a glimpse of traditional crafts. Given time you may also visit Sefrou, also known as Little Jerusalem due to its high percentage of Jews and its well-developed religious life. Overnight Fes (B, L ; B, D)

 

February 25: Meknes - Casablanca

Be packed up and ready to travel to the Imperial City of Meknes, “the Moroccan Versailles”. Begin the visit with a panoramic view of Meknes, which offers a splendid look at the old Islamic Medina with its numerous tall and soaring minarets. Other sites explored include Bab El Mansour, the Meknes Stables, Hedim Square, the Thursday Gate and mosque of Moulay Ismail. Explore the Jewish Mellah, with its narrow lanes and colorful courtyards. The presence of Jewish history is evident in the Hebraic epitaphs that date back to the Christian era. These epitaphs along with Greek inscriptions can be seen on the Meknes Jewish zaouia, a place of pilgrimage where the tomb of Rabbi David Benmidan still resides.

Depart Meknes and travel further to your next adventure the city of Casablanca. You will visit Temple Beth-El, the Jewish Synagogue in Casablanca. It is considered the centerpiece of a once vibrant Jewish community. Its stained glass windows and other artistic elements attract tourists daily. Stop at the Jewish cemetery and Mellah, it is open and quiet, with well-kept white stone markers in French, Hebrew and Spanish.

Given time today or tomorrow conclude your tourwith a visit to the Mosque Hassan II, dramatically situated at the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. Built by the late King Hassan II at the end of his 40-year reign, this astounding edifice is larger than Saint Peter’s in Rome and is capable of holding 80,000 worshippers. Overnight Casablanca (B, Dinner included at Kosher Restaurant)

February 26: Departure

Transfer all to CMN airport in time for flights.(B)