Jewish Maghrib Jukebox

Friday, October 17, 2008

Azemour Cemetery

A number of people I had met with had told me that if they could choose a cemetery to restore it would be the one at Azemour. I of course had to find it. I knew it would be outside of the old city and close to the mellah. I left the old city to find a spot where I could survey the area adjacent to river. I saw a small grass area about 1.5 miles to the north of the city and what looked like white tombs in terrible condition. This had to be it I thought. There was no way to get there other than to hike. The area seemed deserted except for a few kids playing in the river and a lone fisherman. I reached the site that I had seen from the old city and discovered that I wasn’t looking at a cemetery but instead mounds of rock, plaster, and concrete. I knew the cemetery had to have been close but I couldn’t find it. It was surprisingly hot and I was still sick and decided to head back. On my way back I noticed the oldest man I had seen in a long time. We exchanged greetings and I asked him where the cemetery was. He gave me directions back to the place I had already been. I decided to walk back that way anyway to give it another shot. Then I saw a father with his two children. Fathers with their children are always a safe bet for me.

Do you know where the Jewish cemetery is?
Sure. Head straight to the river…
Yes, I was already there but where exactly?
You see that collection of trees?
Amongst the trees?

So I headed back and got lost. A man passed and he told me I need to climb up the hill and on the other side I would find the cemetery. Normally it is not that difficult to find a cemetery as it is surrounded by walls and has a single entrance. However there were no walls and so I didn’t have an obvious land marker. I climbed up the hill and found it. The first graves I found were worn and without inscription but as I ascended further I could see why this cemetery was so special. Beautiful, old tombstones with legible Hebrew inscriptions everywhere. I kept walking. I noticed a sign in Arabic. It said: Entrance Forbidden. Hmm. Who does this apply to I thought? What were the consequences? I heard a dog bark. Then a man about my age appeared. He had a bloody nose and was holding a rusty saw and a 2 x 4. Well I thought, I guess it is forbidden to enter.

Can I enter?
It’s forbidden.

This continued for a minute before I explained to him who I was and that I was Jewish myself. He agreed to show me the cemetery, including the most recent tombs. I asked if I could walk around by myself and he said no. We played that game for a short while until he gave me a couple minutes if I agreed to walk back to the city with him. As we left he told me that the area was dangerous. There were many thieves. Sometimes people say things like that. I can never tell how real the danger is or who they would actually rob as I was the only one walking this path when I returned. Nonetheless he walked me back. He showed me his ID. He was only a year older than me. I told him that. He finally smiled.

1 comment:

Leonie said...

Hi we have found the Bensimon synagogue and the Bensimon street. You can contact me on