It might come as a surprise to many that Morocco actually has a very rich Jewish history. The Lazama Synagogue, located in the mellah (old Jewish quarter) is one of two synagogues which can be found in Marrakech. It’s a building which dates back to the 16th century.
It’s not hard to spot that the vibrant blue of the tiles and paint of the Lazama Synagogue. Compared to the synagogues I’ve seen around the UK, it’s very unusual in the sense that it’s actually a riad, a building which follows typical Moroccan style where it turns inwards and surrounds a courtyard garden. The name Lazama is taken from “Al Azma“, which refers to “those (Jews) who ran away” from Spain.
Kati Roumani, the lady in the photo below, is an anthropologist from London who works as a guide at the Lazama Synagogue. Considering we are both Londoners, it’s ironic we met in Marrakech of all places, instead of the streets of London. She also happened to know a rabbi I worked with just recently. When I asked her if I could take her photograph, she replied that I should take one of her daughter instead who was more beautiful. But the warmth radiating from her when she welcomed this weary traveler to the synagogue meant I thought she was a wonderful lady inside and out, whatever she said.
As cliché as this is going to sound, the world really is a small place.