Jewish Maghrib Jukebox

Friday, November 7, 2008

Assaka – Oct 22

I headed for Assaka the next morning. I had a few old pictures of Assaka that I was hoping to employ to my benefit. There was once a mellah in Assaka and I hoped something of it still remained. I also hoped to find the cemetery. I took a grand taxi to Assaka but the driver overshot it (maybe just to emphasize its size) and I ended up having to take another grand taxi back in order to finally reach Assaka. I got out of the taxi and realized I had finally reached the middle of nowhere. The only shop in town was the butcher who I quickly asked about the Jewish cemetery. He was old enough to remember Jews and indeed he pointed me in that vague straight head direction that I often get here. I started walking in that direction when I heard someone whistle at me. My friend had enlisted the help of his younger friend Larbi. Both spoke Chleuh (Berber) and Arabic. They asked me if I spoke Chleuh as there was a Peace Corps volunteer in the area who had apparently mastered it, I obviously didn’t. I explained to them what I was looking for and they took me straight to the mellah which was a few kilometers back. It was in complete ruins due to lack of upkeep, the mud brick nature of the dwellings, and the extreme weather conditions. It was still very interesting to try and visualize this site. They then took me to a house adjacent to a mosque. One of the oldest men I have yet to see in Morocco exited. He was the local expert on all things Jewish having worked with (or for, I wasn’t sure) Jews decades ago. He gave him a few names I was curious about and he pointed out there houses to me. He then directed Larbi and his older friend (who was also named Larbi) to where the cemetery was on the mountain. The old man could not endure the walk and instead proceeded to shout directions to us for the 20 minutes (higher/to the right/those are just rocks). We found the cemetery but it wasn’t much to look at. You had to seriously use your imagination but it was there. We headed back and the Larbis helped me hail a grand taxi. The younger Larbi began to impress with his knowledge of Jewish history of the area. He referenced Ifrane (which has an 1800 year old synagogue and where I was headed the next day) and the Tafraoute region. I was impressed.

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