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.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Fez attractions

1. Rue des Mérinides

0.05 MILES

The most architecturally impressive street in the mellah (Jewish quarter) is Rue des Mérinides, lined with houses that are distinguished by their wooden…

2. Ben Danan Synagogue

0.07 MILES

Built in the 17th century to serve the megorashim (Jews descended from those expelled from Spain), this synagogue is trimmed in pretty herringbone green…

3. Borj Sidi Bounafae

0.11 MILES

After a large restoration, this tower, built in 1550, was awaiting official reopening in 2019. The view from the ramparts helps put Fez El Jdid in…

4. Royal Palace

0.14 MILES

Unless you have a special invitation to the palace grounds, you'll have to settle for admiring its seven imposing front gates, surrounded by fine tilework…

5. Jewish Cemetery


This area of thousands of blindingly white tombs, all freshly painted in 2019, was established in 1883. You'll find the tombs of a few notables, such as…

6. American Fondouk

0.22 MILES

This nonprofit organisation, established in 1927, is dedicated to giving the working donkeys, mules and horses of the Fez medina a better life, with…

7. Jnan Sbil

0.44 MILES

These lush gardens are a breath of fresh air after the intensity of Fez's medina, and a good walking route between Bab Bou Jeloud and the mellah (Jewish…

8. Bou Jeloud Square


This square on the edge of the medina comes alive at dusk, when locals emerge to stroll and chat. Concerts and a few storytellers sometimes pop up here,…