Morocco and Tunisia both have rich histories in which their Jewish communities played influential roles in their countries’ art, education and culture.
The Kingdom of Morocco and Tunisia both, remain the only two Arab countries that still have active Jewish communities. Prior to 1948 and the establishment of the State of Israel, Jews numbered some 300,000 in Morocco and over 100,000 in Tunisia. Estimates are that today’s Jewish population are less than 5,000 in Morocco and less than 1,500 in Tunisia. Emigration at various times in the 20th century, particularly in 1948, 1956 and 1967 took many Moroccan and Tunisian Jews to France, Israel, Canada or the United States. However, the Jews that remain in Morocco and Tunisia live freely and can travel as they choose out of the country. The warm feelings that the Moroccan and Tunisia Jewish diasporas retain, still brings many of them back to their native countries for visits. In addition, both Morocco and Tunisia’s tolerant attitudes also makes them countries where Jewish visitors can feel welcome.
This special Morocco and Tunisia tour will provide participants with unique experiences. In addition to traveling through parts of these very different and exotic countries and seeing their rich history, you will have the opportunity to meet many of Morocco and Tunisia’s Jews, learn about their existing institutions, how they are funded and how they survive today as Jewish communities.
Both your Moroccan and Tunisian guides are well acquainted not only with their countries’ rich heritage and traditions, but each has relationships with their respective Jewish communities.
Joining this tour is Jerry Sorkin is Iconic Journeys Worldwide Founder and a specialist in North Africa and the Middle East. He has visited Morocco many times since his first visit in 1971 and lived in Tunisia for more than six years prior to returning to the United States in January 2016. During these years, he traveled the region regularly and is also well acquainted with the history of the Jews of North Africa. Jerry is conversant in multiple languages, including Arabic, French and Hebrew and has been awarded the coveted “Top Travel Specialist” designation by Conde Nast Traveler magazine eight times for his work in Tunisia, the most recent being in December 2017. Jerry has led or co-hosted many tours throughout the Middle East and North Africa and will be able to provide important insight into the politics and culture of the region. He teaches a course at Temple University’s Osher Institute in Philadelphia called “Deciphering the Middle East and North Africa”.
Day 1 – Friday, February 8 – Departure from the US
Departure from JFK or US gateway for your overnight non-stop flight to Casablanca, arriving the following morning.
Day 2, Saturday, February 9 – Arrival in CasablancaUpon your morning arrival in Casablanca, you will be met by your English speaking Moroccan guide. We immediately begin our exploration of Casablanca by visiting some of the JDC sponsored programs, thus providing an opportunity to understand how Federation and JDC funds help support programs in Morocco, as well as other Jewish points of interest. Transfer to your deluxe hotel. Dinner and overnight in Casablanca. (D)
Day 3, Sunday, February 10 – Meknes/Fez
After breakfast, we check out of the hotel and depart eastward, with our first stop being the city of Meknes, where we visit the mellah, the old Jewish quarter. Meknes has a six-hundred year old cemetery, which helps provide some of the Jewish history of Meknes, one of Morocco’s four “Imperial Cities”. Today, the Jewish community is very small.
Following your visit to Meknes, we continue on to Fez, seeing the rich architecture of this city as well as learning about its Jewish history. Dinner and overnight in Fez. (B, L, D)
Day 4, Monday, February 11 – Fez
Today is fully devoted to Fez. Our visit will include the mellah, the 17th century Ibn Danan synagogue, the Jewish cemetery and the King’s Palace, one of the most sumptuous complexes in Morocco.
You will also have time to walk through the maze of alleyways, a walking tour that is only suitable for hearty and healthy walkers. Perhaps one of the most important sites for Jewish visitors is the home of Maimonides. Moses Maimonides was from Cordova Spain and was a highly revered and prolific medieval scholar and philosopher. When Jews in Spain were being told to convert under the rule of the fanatical and rather extremist Almohad Berber dynasty at the end of the12th century, Maimonides and his family chose to go into exile, rather than convert. He had already gained a reputation as a prolific medieval scholar and philosopher. He settled in Fez, where he researched and wrote his famous commentary on the Mishnah. Your touring will include a visit to Maimonides’s home in Fez.
Dinner tonight will be at the Jewish club of Fez. Overnight in Fez. (B, L, D)
Day 5 – Tuesday, February 12 – Fez to Rabat
This morning, we depart Fez to Rabat the capital of Morocco, where our visit includes the 12th century Hassan Tower. Begun at the end of the 12th century under the direction of Sultan Yacub al Mansour, the intent was that it be the largest minaret in the world, at that time. Due to his death within four years of the start, construction stopped and the tower that remains is approximately half the height that was originally intended. Suggestions will be made for your independent lunch. Rabat has numerous options. Touring continues with a visit to the Jewish quarter of Rabat.and the Oudaya Gardens. Dinner and overnight in Rabat. (B, D)
Carpet shop in the medina of Marrakech
Day 6 – Wednesday, February 13 – Marrakech
We depart Rabat this morning for a drive south to Marrakech. Upon arrival in Marrakech, we will have some light touring. You will then have some free time back at your hotel to change for the Shabbat. Services tonight will be at a local synagogue, within walking distance of the hotel. Shabbat dinner will be in a private home. Overnight in Marrakech. (B, L, D)
Day 7 – Thursday, February 14 – Marrakech
This morning, those who wish to attend Shabbat services, will be able to walk to the synagogue if they choose. Lunch will be in a family home, followed by a walking tour if Gueliz, often referred to as the “new town”, as this was built under the French and is where most of the Marrakech Jews reside.
We regroup mid-afternoon at our hotel for more touring of Marrakech, including a visit to
Bahia Palace, the herbalists in the medina. There will also be time to walk through the maze of alleyways and shops that make up the medina of Marrakech.
Dinner tonight is independent. Searching design and food magazines, as well as online sources, one finds that Moroccan cuisine and the restaurant scene in Marrakech is hot!!! Numerous suggestions will be provided, as well as instructions on how to get to the restaurant of your choice. You can also visit the famous Djema Fna, Morocco’s central square that turns into a circus type atmosphere at night with crowds coming to the market to listen to the variety of local musicians, enjoying the many food stalls and the exotic atmosphere that has carried on for generations in Marrakech, including snake charmers. Overnight in Marrakech. (B, L)
Day 8 – Friday, February 15 – Marrakech/Casablanca
This morning we depart for a return to Casablanca. Upon arrival in Casablanca, we will have the opportunity to visit more of the city and any JDC sites that we did not visit at the beginning of the tour. Our “Farewell Dinner” will be in a nice setting. Overnight in Casablanca. (B, L, D)
Day 9 – Saturday, February 16 – departure
This morning you transfer to the airport for your flight to Tunisia, arriving approximately two hours later.
Since you will already have adjusted to the time zones from having been in Morocco, after taking you to your hotel and giving you some time to change, we take a drive providing an orientation of this beautiful seaside area of Tunis, including a visit to Sidi Bou Said, a village whose architecture and winding streets were influenced by its early Andalusian settlers who came here following their expulsion from Spain at the end of the 15th century.
Enjoy the views and learn something about the history of the region.
From Sidi Bou Said, we drive to La Goulette for dinner to enjoy the atmosphere of this town that once had a large mix of multiple faiths, including fourteen synagogues. One synagogue remains today in La Goulette, as well as a JDC sponsored Senior’s Home. Dinner and overnight in Tunis-Gammarth. (B, L, D)
Day 10, Sunday, February 17 – Tunis environs
This morning we begin with Tunisia’s most famous site (though hardly its largest)…Carthage. Today, Carthage, as with Sidi Bous Said, are affluent suburbs of Tunis, Tunisia’s capital.
After touring some of Carthage, we drive towards town and visit with the President of the Jewish community and hear about the needs and the workings of the use of United States Jewish philanthropy and its role in helping Tunisia’s Jewish communities.
Following our visit, we drive a short distance to the Jewish cemetery of Borj Ciel, where one can get a sense of what was once a large Jewish community numbering 15% of the capital prior to 1948. The cemetery is divided between the Livornese community and the larger, Tunisois Jews. From Borj Ciel, we continue to the Grand Synagogue, which is located on Avenue de liberte, a main street in Tunis. We will have the opportunity to meet with one of the community members and hear about the synagogue and who it serves, today.
Continue to the Bardo Museum, Tunisia’s foremost museum and the home of a world-class mosaic collection. Among the museums many holdings is their Judaic department, which holds Jewish antiquities from the Roman period in Tunisia.
Return to your seaside resort hotel for some down time to relax, enjoy a spa treatment or to explore on your own.
We will visit the synagogue in La Goulette, helping to make the minyan for mincha and m’erev, as well as meeting members of the Jewish community.
We then depart for dinner with another night of Tunisian cuisine. Overnight in Tunis-Gammarth. (B, L, D)
Day 11, Monday, February 18 – northwest Tunisia
This morning we depart to the northwest of Tunisia, a region of hills, mountains and rolling farmland, which ultimately became the breadbasket for the Roman Empire.
Our first stop will be Testour, a town settled by Andalusian emigres, both Jewish and Muslim who came to Tunisia as a result of their expulsion from Spain at the end of the 15th century. Following Testour, we continue for approximately one hour to the expansive archaeological site of Dougga.
Late day return to Tunis. Dining tonight is independent with a variety of restaurant suggestions to be provided to you, along with instructions on how to get to various venues. Overnight in Tunis-Gammarth. (B, L)
Day 12, Tuesday, February 19 – Tunis/Jerba
After an early breakfast, you check out of your hotel for a flight to the island of Jerba. The island has a special character. We begin with a visit to the Ghriba synagogue, one of numerous synagogues on the island of Jerba, where the Jewish community dates itself to over 2,000 years. For the Jewish festival Lag B’omer, which takes place in the spring, the festival is celebrated in a manner that in a way that is unique to the island of Jerba, historically bringing Jewish pilgrims from all over Tunisia and the region.
We then go to the island’ other Jewish village, the much larger, Hara Kabira. Home to approximately one thousand Jews, there are twelve synagogues still operating, a yeshiva, a girl’s school, a communal oven and youthful, vibrant community. We will have the opportunity to speak with representatives of the community and have a walking tour through Hara Kabira.
Your island tour eventually brings you to Houmt Souk, Jerba’s main market town which is Mediterranean in feel, small in scale and a great place for those who had been waiting to go shopping. Many of the jewelers in Houmt Souk are from the Jewish village of Hara Kabira. The remainder of the afternoon is unstructured. Take your time to shop and enjoy any one of the numerous cafes and restaurants, all of which are in a relatively small walking area. A shuttle will be arranged to return you to your hotel, or, you can easily take a taxi. Dinner and overnight in Jerba. (B, D)
Day 13, Wednesday, February 20 – Jerba/Tunis
Morning return flight back to Tunis. We will have the opportunity to meet with a member of the government to discuss aspects of Tunisia’s foreign policy, including its policies regarding Israel.
We will then have a walking tour of the medina, the historic heart of Tunis, where the origins date to the 7th century. There are many shops and alleyways that you will see as we walk with your guide. You may then continue on your own exploring, stay with your guide and/or walk back to our hotel…a restored mansion within the Kasbah.
Our farewell dinner will be in a very special venue. Overnight in Tunis. (B, D)
Day 14, Thursday, February 21 – departure
Morning departure back to the US, arriving later the same day. (B)
Casablanca: Hyatt Regency ★★★★★
Fez: Marriott’s Jnan Palace ★★★★★
Rabat: Sofitel Jarden des Roses ★★★★★
Marrakech: La Naoura ★★★★★
Tunis:-Gammarth Golden Tulip ★★★★★
Jerba: Hasdrubal Thalassa ★★★★★
Tunis: Palais Bayram ★★★★★
NOTE: Hotel star ratings reflect Tunisia’s Ministry of Tourism ratings and may not be commensurate with international ratings. In our objective opinion, between one to two stars should be deducted to correspond to international rankings. The narrative reviews are those of Jerry Sorkin and/or based on client feedback.
$5,895 COST per person based on double occupancy.
Single Supplement: $1,525.
Services Included in package:
- Deluxe hotels as described
- Meals as indicated by B, L, D
- English speaking Moroccan and Tunisia tour guides throughout
- One-way airfare from Casablanca to Tunis
Not included in the package:
- Gratuities to Moroccan and Tunisian guide and drivers.
- Transportation from US. To Morocco and Tunis to US
- Round-trip airfare from US gateway to Casablanca and back from Tunis. Iconic Journeys Worldwide will be happy to assist in air ticketing.
SPACE IS LIMITED!!!
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