Posts Tagged ‘Things to do in Tangier’

Discovering Tangier’s Jewish Heritage Sites

Tuesday, December 5th, 2023

Tangier, a city located at the northern tip of Morocco, is a captivating fusion of North African, Spanish, Portuguese, and French influences, making it a true crossroads of cultures with a rich Jewish heritage. Tangier sits at the western entrance to the Strait of Gibraltar where the Mediterranean meets the Atlantic Ocean off Cape Spartel. The city’s unique position has shaped its history, architecture, and cultural tapestry, attracting visitors from around the world. Tangier’s location has played a pivotal role in shaping its identity.

As the capital of the Tétouan Region it has a rich Jewish history due to the historical presence of many civilizations and cultures that conquered this area from the 5th century BC.  It has been a melting pot of diverse cultural influences. This fusion is evident in the city’s architecture, cuisine, and traditions, creating a rich tapestry of experiences for visitors and in particular for those seeking to explore Morocco’s Jewish Heritage sites and Sephardic traditions.

The Rich Tapestry of Tangier’s Jewish Heritage Sites

Referred to as the “White Bride of the North,” Tangier is home to a rich tapestry of Jewish Heritage Sites that offer a glimpse into a historically vibrant Jewish community that once thrived there. On a Private, Guided Tangier Jewish Tour, our expert guides will unveil the hidden stories of the Jews dating back to the Temple of Solomon along with showcasing Tangiers synagogues, cemeteries and a new Jewish Museum .

The first Jews migrated to Tangier (once known as Tanja or Tingus) after the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem and settled among the Berbers. Jews of Tangier were later met by a second wave of migration from the Jews living in the Iberian Peninsula during the 1492 Alhambra Decree. During this time the Jews were expelled Spain and Portugal. This second wave of immigration changed Moroccan jewry, as they largely embraced the Andalusian Sephardic liturgy, creating a population of Moroccan Jews that gained a primarily Sephardic identity.

Jews Crossing by Boat into Tangier 1492

August 1 on the Gregorian calendar, which aligns with the 9th day of Av 5777 on the Hebrew calendar, holds profound significance in Jewish and world history. It was on this day in 1492 that the Alhambra Decree was issued by the Spanish Monarchs, resulting in the expulsion of the Jewish population from Spain. This edict not only altered the course of Jewish history but also had far-reaching implications on a global scale.

The issuance of the Alhambra Decree in 1492 marked a pivotal and heart-wrenching juncture for the Jewish community. This cruel and unjust decree forced thousands of Jews to leave their homes, abandon their possessions, and seek refuge in unfamiliar lands. The expulsion led to immense suffering, dispersal, and the loss of cultural and religious heritage. The expulsion of the Jews from Spain also reverberated throughout the world. It resulted in the dissemination of Jewish communities to various parts of Europe, North Africa, the Middle East, and beyond. This dispersion gave rise to new cultural exchanges, influenced artistic and intellectual movements, and contributed to the rich tapestry of global history and civilization.

The Moors and the Jews intermixed in Tangier, living peacefully side by side. In 1856, Tangier had become the largest port in Morocco. Alongside, the Jewish community of Tangier flourished and established schools, hospitals, charitable works and businesses. By 1925 Jews were assigned three out of the twenty-six seats on the Legislative Assembly offering them significant political power. Post World War II the Jews of Tangier enjoyed a prosperous and cosmopolitan lives as they were not affected by the war and offered protection by Mohammed V who referred to them as “Moroccans and not only Jews.” At its peak in the 1940s, there were 22,000 Jews in Tangier and Morocco’s Jewish population exceeded 350 000. Today, there is a vibrant community in Morocco which counts approximately 2000 – 2500 Jews.

Historic-Jewish- Tangier-Morocco-Travel-Blog
Historic Jewish Quarter, Tangier

Delving into Tangier’s Jewish Quarter: A Living Legacy

Tangier did not have a formal Jewish Mellah similar to those in Casablanca, Fes, Marrakech and Essaouira, it did have a Jewish Quarter. Embarking on a journey through Tangier’s Jewish quarter is akin to entering a time capsule that preserves the essence of a bygone era. As you navigate the labyrinthine streets, you are enveloped by the enduring spirit of a community that has left an indelible mark on the city’s cultural fabric. The Jewish quarter, with its ornate synagogues, quaint alleyways, and bustling marketplaces, beckons visitors to immerse themselves in a captivating narrative of resilience and cultural tenacity.

Tangier-Moshe- Nahon-Synagogue-Morocco
Moshe Nahon Synagogue, Tangier

The Moshe Nahon Synagogue of Tangier: A Testament to Faith and Resilience

At the heart of Tangier’s Jewish heritage lies the Moshe Nahon Synagogue, an intimate, architectural marvel that stands as a testament to the enduring faith and resilience of the community. The soaring ceilings, glass lamps and motifs adorning the synagogue’s interior transport visitors to a realm of timeless beauty and profound spiritual significance. As you stand within the hallowed halls of this sacred edifice, you are enveloped by a sense of reverence and awe, attesting to the enduring legacy of Tangier’s Jewish heritage.

Behind a non descript door, located on Rue Synagogue in Tangier is the Moshe Nahon Synagogue. This last remaining operating synagogue in Tangier is monumental and lavish, ranking among one of the most beautiful synagogues in Morocco. Built in the 1870’s the Nahon Synagogue remained as a working place for Jewish prayer until it fell into despair in the lat 20th Century. Then in 1994 it was renovated revealing intricately covered carvings that are illuminated by magical hanging synagogue lamps and Jewish artifacts. At one time there were over 20 synagogues in Tangier. On Rue des Synagogues, there are many closed synagogues. One of them, Temple Benatar, has been restored and is superbly decorated.

Char Rafael Synagogue, Tangier

The Char Rafael Synagogue of Tangier: One of the Last Surviving Synagogues

Chaar Rafael is one of the last surviving synagogues and remnants of Jewish Heritage in Tangier. Located on 27 Boulevard Pasteur in Tangier this Jewish owned villa was built in 1919, and it was converted to a synagogue in 1954 when the owner, Raphaël Bendriahm died. Located in the center of the European city, Chaar Rafael is nearby the ocean cliffs where the stone outlines of the tombs of the Phoenicians, who came with Jews to Tangier almost three thousand years ago.

Beit Hahayim Jewish Cemetery, Tangier

Beit Hahayim – Tangier Jewish Cemetery:

The Jewish Cemetery in Tangier, referred to as the “old cemetery” has more then one-thousand graves, some of which date back to the 16th Century. There are many important individuals buried there. Owned by the Tangier municipality, the Jewish Cemetery is open to the public and has caretakers who oversee it. While the cemetery has somewhat fallen to ruins with a combination of erosion and water issues, the tombstones have been digitized to offer those interested the opportunity to search the remains there online. The tombstones are in Hebrew, Portuguese and French.

Abraham-Toledano- Synagogue-Tangier
Abraham Toledano Synagogue, Tangier

Avraham Toledano Synagogue

Built in the 19th Century, the synagogue is named after Abraham Toledo who was a prominent  member of the Tangier Jewish community. Referred to a the “Great Synagogue” Known for its beautiful hand carved woodwork and ornamentation, this synagogue is one of the oldest yet no longer in use.

Beit Yehuda, Jewish Museum, Tangier

Preserving History, Tangier Jewish Museum Collections

Beit Yehuda Tangier Jewish Museum (Assayag Synagogue):

Built in the 19th Century, the synagogue is named after Abraham Toledo who was a prominent  member of the Tangier Jewish community. Referred to a the “Great Synagogue” Known for its beautiful hand carved woodwork and ornamentation, this synagogue is one of the oldest yet no longer in use.

American Legation Museum, Berber Jewish Artifacts, Tangier

American Legation Museum:

The American Legation Museum is located in a five story villa in Tangier and is oldest American consulate in continuous use. Since 1829/ 1923 when Tangier was established as an International city, there were many Moroccan Jews that served as American proteges, placing them beyond the law of the Sultan.  A private collection of Berber/Jewish history and bridal gowns/dresses. The American Legation in Tangier is the only US Historic Monument located outside American soil. It hosts the Tangier American Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies (TALIM). TALIM includes, among others, a private museum, a research library accessible by appointment only, and a community Arabic Literacy Program.

For more information:

To Book a Tangier Jewish Heritage Tour, contact the Travel Exploration Morocco 

Morocco First Country to Recognize America, Your Morocco Tour Guide

Sunday, December 20th, 2015

Ibn Mohammed Ben Abdellah of Morocco

Ibn Mohammed Ben Abdellah of Morocco












The Kingdom of Morocco became the first country in the world to recognize America as an independent nation on December 20th, 1777. A year and a half after the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1786, United States Minister Thomas Barclay and Sidi Muhammad Ibn Abdullah, the Sultan of Morocco, penned a treaty of friendship. This treaty of friendship between American and Morocco is now lauded as the key longstanding agreement of peace that remains unbroken between the United States and another country. Morocco then became the first Arab, African and Muslim state to sign a treaty with the USA.

Morocco, America Treat of Friendship

Morocco, America Treat of Friendship













The first piece of American real estate in Morocco and abroad was the Tangier American Legation Museum. Gifted to the USA by Sultan Moulay Sulliman in 1821, The Tangier American Legation Museum is the oldest diplomatic property in the world. This five-story mansion is registered as a national treasure of historic places and has an impressive collection of paintings along with a bookshop dedicated to Paul Bowles.

Tangier Legation Museum

Tangier Legation Museum









In 1912, Morocco became a French protectorate. Certain portions of Morocco also came under Spanish control, including the province of Tangier. However, the United States did not recognize the French and Spanish protectorates until October 20, 1917, when Secretary of State Robert Lansing sent a letter formally acknowledging the protectorate to Jean Jules Jusserand, French Ambassador to the United States.


American Legation Museum, Black & White

American Legation Museum, Black & White









The United States recognized Moroccan independence from French sovereignty on March 7, 1956, in a statement of congratulations regarding the Franco-Moroccan declaration of March 2, wherein France had recognized Moroccan independence.

As 2015 comes to an end we celebrate a historic time frame of 238 years of friendly relations between Morocco and the USA.

For more information about America and Morocco or a Taniger Tour

Morocco’s Imperial CitiesSeaside Resorts,Sahara Desert,Berber villagesA Taste of MoroccoMagical Kasbahs, Ruins & WaterfallsAbsolute Morocco, The Best of MarrakechFes, and Ouarzazate

Discover The Best of Morocco - Travel Exploration
Travel Exploration specializes in Morocco Travel. We offer Private Tours and travel opportunities to Morocco for the independent traveler and tailor-made tours for families and groups with a distinctly unique flavor. From Morocco’s Seven Imperial Cities, to the Magical Sahara Travel Exploration offers a captivating experience that will inspire you. At Travel Exploration we guarantee that you will discover the best of Morocco! Call Travel Exploration at 1 (800) 787-8806 or + 1 (212) 618882681 and let’s book a tour to Morocco for you today.