In an effort to boost a growing tourism industry, Morocco plans to rehabilitate the ancient Jewish Quarter in Marrakech, known locally as “Mellah.”
Covering 40 hectares, the Jewish Quarter was originally established in 1558 to accommodate the Jews escaping the brutal Spanish Inquisition.
It was built under the reign of Sultan Moulay Abdallah, who offered Jews a secure area in the heart of the medina, where they could live, worship and continue to practice their traditions.
The plan includes 30 priority actions that will safeguard houses on the verge of collapsing, refurbish Foundouks, and develop public squares and other facilities in the area.
The first part of the program, the rehabilitation of businesses, has already been completed by skilled carpenters that have recreated the ancient architectural patterns that characterized the area.
Renovation of the Mellah will cost around US$20 million, and is being jointly financed by the Housing Ministry and the city of Marrakech.
It is part of a broader US$32 million project which includes other renovations in the old city.
Jews have lived in Morocco for 2,500 years when the first Jews migrated there and settled with the Berber people after the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem.
The Jewish population in Morocco peaked at around 250,000 people in the 1940s, but today numbers of the small but vibrant community are only around 2,000-2,5000.