EL MELLAH

The Jews of Meknes knew that the old Jewish quarter - that of the Middle Ages - stood on the other side of the medina, at a place called At-Tawra, which is probably an abbreviation for Harat Ahl at-tawrat Of the followers of the Torah). Other Jews, probably the Spanish exiles, lived in the heart of the Moslem city, in the Rue du Fuseau, behind the mosque of Lalla Aouda, near the mausoleum of Moulay Ismail.

Moulay Israil shaved old merinid districts, erected great monuments and palaces and ordered the Jews to regroup in a new district that he had them buy. Construction was entrusted to his Christian slaves. This is the old mellah.

The diplomatic representatives of the time described this mellah as smiling and clean in the summer when the streets were dry, but disgusting, with its muddy and stinky streets, in rainy weather. The streets were narrow and the houses very simple, tight, without decoration.
They were open on a patio and the families each occupied a room. There were 261 houses at the end of the 19th century for 1152 families, or four to one families per household.

This ancient mellah could not cope with the demographic explosion of the twentieth century. A few Jews settled in the neighboring quarter, Berrima. But between 1926 and 1930, the new mellah was built. The streets were wider, the houses less crowded, more spacious and more modern.

There were 19 synagogues in the old mellah and 17 in the new. They had nothing luxurious: white walls and pave floors, sometimes tiled, rarely marble (in the new mellah), wooden benches covered with mats, holy arches with carved or painted wooden panels, hanging memorial glasses To the ceiling with chains of copper or silver.