Culture

Mellah: A safe haven in the heart of the Medina

Per: Majda FADILI  

CULTURE The beautiful Medina is known for its heartwarming and kind residents and it is also known to be a place where people coexist and share their best and worst days together, as they indulge in their cultural and architectural heritage. So what is the secret of this place, and what are its origins?

Mellah was once known as the district dedicated to the jewish community, the term itself is derived from the term “Milh”, which means salt in both the Hebrew and Arabic language. However, when it comes to the reason for that name, there are different interpretations and stories, but what stands out the most is the urban legend that the jews used to put salt on the heads of the rebels and publicly exhibit them…

 

Once upon time there was The Mellah

The Mellah was built back in 1558 by Moulay Abdallah, the Sultan of the Saadien has offered this district to the jews that escaped from spain, offering them a safe and secured home for their community, and also a way to take advantage of their artisanal skills.

This old part of the ocher city is known to have a large part of the architectural heritage that the city of Marrakech is known for, spreading through the 18 hectares of compartmentalized houses with the breath taking balconies, tucked in the massive walls that separate the jewish community from the muslim one, all without taking away from the accessibility of the district. Unfortunately, most of the jewish families have already left the Mellah, but they have left their trace, their traditions and beautiful art, the artisanal masterpieces that were picked up by the fellow Marrakchis and kept alive till this day…


Ali Baba’s cave

The Mellah is with no doubt one of the few places for you to find exquisite and rare articles, items, relics and very charming and ancient handmade pieces. Finding great deals, with the condition of being a good haggler. There are also different things to be found in this amazing district:

The tinsmiths’ square: This beautiful pedestrian street, situated between the Badii Palace and the Bahia Palace, it has gained its name from all the tinsmith shops located in this alley among the glassblowers and the ironworkers…

The Jewelers’ alley: Also known as “Kissaria”, this area has many little shops that sell different jewelries, from gold, silver, etc… they come in many shapes from the little hand “Khmissa” to the traditional wedding belts for women. There is also an auction that is held there every day at 16:30h.

The massive souk of spices:  We easily find ourselves seduced and mesmerized by the large cones of the colorful spices, and their wonderful aroma, from Ras el hanout, paprika, cinnamon, cumin to saffron, a blend in smell and a blend in color that makes you want to purchase an unlimited supply of all the spices. These products are a great way to attract the newcomers and tourists, and of course a beautiful addition to your kitchen, as they come in reasonable prices.

The fabric market: The shops are plenty, and they will satisfy all preferences, when it comes to your fashion sense as well as your color preference. Various materials, and various designs… the shopkeepers also offer tailoring services to make whatever comes to your mind from traditional garment to cover-ups of different accessories…

The wonderful city of Marrakech has made an amazing blend between the two Jewish and Muslim communities, gathered in a very tolerant and safe atmosphere, and the fruit of that is the Mellah, a place where you will indulge in the artisanal and architectural masterpieces that both communities consider as their legacy.

 

Photo: DR

Translation: Amine Ouahbi