In 1438 Sultan Ar Rashid created Morocco's first official Jewish district, just east of the royal palace. At its peak, some 250,000 Jews lived in the area south of Bab Semmarine. Today, the remaining handful have moved to the Ville Nouvelle, but it's still interesting to see traces of the community in the buildings. The name derives from a salt marsh or the Oued Mellah (Salt River) in the area; now every Jewish quarter in Morocco is called a mellah.

Rue des Mérinides, the district's main street, is lined with homes with open balconies – a distinct change from the blank-walled medina architecture. The grandest old homes are in the northwest part of the neighbourhood, but many are in ruins or are now occupied by many poor families. The covered lane along the north edge of the cemetery was once goldsmiths workshops; now the tiny rooms have been repurposed as dwellings. Older doorframes throughout the area still have mezuzot (small parchment cases), or small rectangular holes where they used to be.