Jewish Maghrib Jukebox

Friday, October 17, 2008

El Jadida

Arrived in El Jadida sick and early. I was surprised. It is very manageable and friendly town. The guidebook steered me towards the perfect hotel. I had lunch and then headed to the old Portuguese city. My first stop was the cemetery, which was very easy to find. After speaking with the elderly guard, who was hesitant to let me in, he let me in and wished me good luck in finding whomever I was trying to find. He told me to go slowly and take my time. The cemetery is beautiful, much like the one in Asilah but on a much larger scale. It lies just outside the Portuguese walled city and only a wall and road lie between the cemetery and the ocean. I spent about an hour walking around the cemetery and found that a woman was buried there as recently as 2006. I left the synagogue and walked around the ramparts to get a better sense of the old city.

El Jadida once boasted 12 synagogues. I have a 55-year-old picture of the Aaron HaCohen synagogue and committed it to memory before touring the old city. I saw a building that looked (in my mind) very much like the one I remembered and snapped a photo. I decided to call it quits after that as I was only feeling sicker and sicker. I returned home and checked the photo I took against the photo I had. They were similar but ultimately different.

I returned to the old city by night to use the internet at a place called Mellah net. I showed the patron a photo of the outside of the BenSimon synagogue to see if he recognized it but unfortunately he didn’t. I decided to do a little bit more strolling before heading home. I walked the tiny streets of the mellah only to notice that I was standing in front of what looked exactly like the 55-year-old photo I had. I stared at the building for a long while. I took a right where I remember there should have been an arch and it worked. I had found the synagogue. I obviously wasn’t going to get in at night but it seems that thick concrete has been poured over the entrance and I’m curious to see if or how I will get in tomorrow. As I walked down the streets I noticed something I hadn’t seen before. The streets of the mellah all maintained their former names. There was Joseph Nahon Street and Abraham Znaty Street, respected Jewish citizens of El Jadida. I continued to walk until a young boy came up to me to tell me that the street was closed. You come across this in Morocco all the time. But I realized he meant that there is no exit the way I was going that it was leading me to a dead end. He was just trying to by helpful. He then asked me if I was speaking Egyptian Arabic. Yes, I said.

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