Jewish life still exists in Morocco with an estimated 2,000 Jews currently living in the country. Marrakech has at least two synagogues open to visitors. While its most active temple is in the modern part of town, it was the older Lazama Synagogue in Marrakech that attracted us.
Today, Morocco has the largest Jewish population in the Arab world. If you know where to look, you can find signs of both past and present Jewish life.
Hidden down an alleyway in the Mellah (Jewish Quarter), Lazama Synagogue in
Marrakech is located in a surprisingly bright and beautiful courtyard.
A security guard protects the alley’s entrance so subtly that most people walk by without ever knowing it is there. At the end of the same street sits the Jewish cemetery.
Inside Lazama Synagogue in Marrakech
Once located, the caretaker let us into the locked synagogue. This is similar to our experience getting into the synagogue in the Jewish Quarter in Fes Morocco.
Built during the early 1900s, it is not the first synogogue on this site. In fact, those escaping the Spanish inquisition built the original synagogue here in 1492.
A well-tended courtyard surrounds the Lazama Synagogue. Around the outer edges are curtains offering privacy to the members who live there. Beautiful hand-laid tiles covered many of the walls, often between the curtains.
Colour and patterns reflect the Jewish atmosphere, as does the Hebrew letters along the upper edge of the walls. While mostly blues and white are used in this courtyard, we found much of Marrakech to be vivid and colourful.
Mezuzah at the door
A mezuzah hangs on the doorframe at the entrance to Lazama Synagogue. A mezuzah is a piece of parchment often in a decorative case. It is inscribed with specified Hebrew verses from the Torah.
Typically, a mezuzah is hung at the door of a Jewish home. In addition, some wear a mezuzah charm around their neck for protection.
⇒ Get your own door frame mezuzah
A sukkah in Marrakech
We visited during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot. As a result, there was a sukkah in the courtyard. For more information about the sukkah and the holiday of Sukkot, read this article from Judaism 101.
“The Mellah of Marrakesh captures the vibrancy of Jewish society in Marrakesh in the tumultuous last decades prior to colonial rule and in the first decades of life in the colonial era. Although focused on the Jewish community, it offers a compelling portrait of the political, social, and economic issues confronting all of Morocco and sets a new standard for urban social history.” ―Dale F. Eickelman
Morocco’s largest Jewish cemetery is in Marrakech
Back on the road, we could see the entrance to Miara Jewish cemetery at the end of the street. Its unassuming gate gave no hint to the fact that this is the largest Jewish cemetery in Morocco.
Although first established about 600 years ago, it is an active cemetery, still in use today.
The caretaker stopped us at the gate, which surprised us as we have read that anyone can enter. After a brief conversation, he allowed us access where we found well-preserved markings. Each gravesite contains bodies buried three deep to preserve space.
While the Jewish population in Morocco is now small, this was not always the case. In fact, as recently as the 1940’s there were 240,000 Jews co-existing in Morocco. Historically, many families originally arrived as refugees, fleeing from the Spanish Inquisition.
There are several mausoleums in the cemetery. The one just below holds the graves of two important rabbis.
Stones on gravesites
For Jews, it is a tradition to leave stones at a gravesite You can see them on both of the images below. While many theories exist as to why this is done, there is no clear answer. All are either based on respect or superstition. We also saw this custom at the Jewish cemetery in Prague, Czech Republic.
Tips for visiting the Mellah, Miari Cemetery or Lazama Synagogue in Marrakech
- The Mellah (Jewish Quarter) is just outside the old medina.
- For opening hours, see the Lazama Synagogue Marrakech temple site.
- If you struggle to find Lazama Synagogue in Marrakech (and you will), for a small tip you can usually ask a local child to bring you right to the somewhat hidden, and unlabelled entrance.
- There are other small synagogues located in the Marrakech Mellah, but they are not open to the public.
- The Cemetery is open daily.
- Men wear a kippah (provided) inside the cemetery.
- Tradition dictates washing hands when leaving the cemetery.
- Before leaving the cemetery, leave a small donation (10-20 dhs) for the caretaker.
Take a tour that includes Lazama Synagogue and other Jewish sites in the City
Marrakech is a fun city to explore, yet many visitors prefer to discover it with a guide. It’s a city well-known for friendly people. Unfortunately, like anywhere, there are some who take advantage of visitors’ unfamiliarity with local customs and lifestyle. This is when tours can be helpful.
There are many tour options. Of the tours we have explored that have good reviews, only this Marrakech Discovery Tour with Lunch specifically mentions Lazama Synagogue.
This full-day, small group (maximum 6 people) tour is perfect for first-time visitors to Marrakech. It starts and ends at your hotel, and includes entrance fees. You will see the largest mosque in Marrakech, the Lazama Synagogue, Bahia Palace, gardens, statues, and Jemaa el Fnaa (the main square in Marrakech).
⇒ Click here to check price and reviews
Tours of Marrakech that visit the Mellah
We found several well-rated tours that visit the Jewish Quarter. However, none of them specifically mention Lazama or any other synagogue in Marrakech.
Full-day private tour of the medina and souks: This all-day tour includes Bahia Palace, Saadian Tombs, Jewish Quarter and market of Mellah, lunch, artisan markets, and architecture of the Ben Youssef Madrasa. Reserve your medina and souks tour here
Marrakech: Private half-day walking tour: This four-hour walking tour includes Bahia Palace, Saadian Tombs, Ben Youssef Madrasa, Koutoubia Mosque, Jewish Quarter, and the world-famous Jemaa el-Fnaa square. Reserve your walking tour here
Marrakech: Private full-day city tour: A seven-hour tour that includes Bahia Palace, Saadian Tombs, Ben Youssef Madrasa, Jewish Quarter, Koutoubia Mosque, Jemaa el-Fnaa square, Majorelle Garden and Berber Museum. Reserve your city tour here
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Does anyone know of a synagogue called Tish Hashana in Marrakech and an email address to contact the women of the synagogue?
Sorry, I don’t know. Maybe one of the other readers can help you.
great review of Marrakech.thanks for the tips
I passed this place while visiting Marrakesh. It looks like a lovely place to visit. Hope to be back soon
That was a nice history lesson for me as I had never realized how big the Jewish community is in Marrakesh. Then again, I’ve never been to Marrakesh – something I’m really hoping to change in the next few years. It is near the top of my bucket list, just need to make it happen!
I enjoyed this blog because when I died, I’ll be cremated and my urn will be placed in the mausoleum where my parents are at. They are placed with their coffins and full bodies. My wife and I decided to be cremated and our urns to be near my parents.
Think I’ve been to two synagogues, but never visited a cemetery, and seen gravesite markers like that – hmm, interesting!
I’ve been to Marrakesh a few times but hadn’t realised about the Jewish heritage there. I shall make a point of visiting when we next go. We’re keen to revisit Morocco.
I didn’t realize that Morocco had a large Jewish community. It looks like a beautiful synagogue.
I carry stones with me where ever I go and also collect them as I go along…..leaving them where it’s appropriate to remember my beloved friends and family.
Interesting article. It just goes to show, “Wherever you go, there’s always someone Jewish.”
Oh…so Morocco is this populated with the Jewish community? That’s fascinating. I love their decor especially in riads in Morocco. I would love to visit the cemetery and synagogue, must be so special and historic to them.
I was in Tangier, Morocco recently and saw 2 synagogues there. Unfortunately, neither were in use any longer as most of the Jews of Tangier have left. Thank you for the background information and all the wonderful photos!
This is a very interesting place to visit. You captured it so well!
I’ve been to the synagogue, but not the cemetery. Thanks for sharing.
Lydia C. Lee
Interesting on the stones…will google.
fascinating place to explore – thanks for the info!
Looks and sounds like a very interesting trip!
We have three Synagogues in our city and very few know about them. The architecture is wonderful. I came across the Hebrew scripts there itself. Synagogues did always enthralled me because of the history associated with them.
Lisa | Handmade in Israel
I also never knew the Jewish community of Morocco was still so large. What an interesting post. Do the gravesite markers have any writing/names on them?
That looks like an interesting day trip! I never really thought that there was much of a Jewish population in Morocco. Really cool to see the synagogues and cemetary there. They look so ancient!
Actually, they are both still in use today.
Wow, Marrakech is such a beauty . There are so many things and places to enjoy and visit.
The pictures are absolutely awesome. It is pretty obvious you had an awesome time with your trip. I am quite jealous actually.
Jeannette (Jay Joy)
Hebrew verses from the Torah on the Mezuzah is amazing. We will be visiting Israel next October. I am so excited about reading anything Hebrew.
Julie Kemp pick
Our friend was born in Morocco, but I never knew they were known for having the largest Jewish cemetery. It looks incredible, but it’s so overcrowded. Glad you lightened the mood by visiting the Sukkah.
This cemetery in Marrakech is the largest Jewish cemetery in Morocco.
I didn’t realize that the jews use to live there but of course it makes sense seeing as they migrated around the world. I think the thing that appeals to me the most is the artwork you might sometimes see.
My Mum has been to Morocco before, but this cemetery was not on their itinerary. The synagogue looks very solemn.
oh that is so cool!!! I would love to visit Marrakech especially that i keep on reading all the awesome stuff about it. Soon.
Beautiful post. We went to the silversmith shop in Essaouira, Morocco. There used to be a very large Jewish population there as well. We missed the synagogue in Marrakesh–wish I’d seen you post before we went. Also recently went to the Jewish cemetery in Penang, Malaysia. There is no Jewish community there any longer. Similar headstones.
Quite an amazing piece of information. Very useful guide for Marrakech.
Thank you for bringing us to places I couldn’t even imagine and never heard about. It’s important for people to know these so that we can respect each other’s beliefs.
Hi Rhonda – it sounds fascinating … I’d love to see Morocco, let alone the cities and then the historical elements. Interesting about them escaping from the Spanish Inquisition … Thanks for this – Hilary
What a lovely synagogue. Thank you for some of the history about this area. I didn’t even know there was a Jewish community in Morocco. Thank you for the history lesson.
Have a fabulous day and weekend, Rhonda. ♥
Alex J. Cavanaugh
That’s still a very small population living there. I wonder if they are targeted by anyone, verbally or otherwise.
Very interesting cemetery!