The Jewish Cemetery of Mogador בית החיים אסווירה

The Jewish Cemetery of Mogador בית החיים אסווירה

  • Last update: May 8, 2022, 4:03 p.m.

An excursion to Essaouira is always a pleasure. The port, the Medina, and the manufacturers of Thuja objects are the essential steps of this visit. But for Jews of Morocco, there is another place that attracts them: the Jewish cemetery of Mogador בית החיים אסווירה. This cemetery is one of the main Jewish sites in Essaouira.

There are two Jewish cemeteries in this city: the old and the new. They are separated by the width of a street but are several centuries apart.

The Old Cemetery

old picture of the old cemetry

Ancient picture of the old cemetery

The old cemetery is very visited because of the tomb of Rabbi Haim Pinto רב חיים פינטו (1743-1845). In 1998, a mausoleum was built on his grave. 

Mausoleum of Rabbi Haim Pinto

Mausoleum of Rabbi Haim Pinto

On his Hilloula day, thousands of Jews come to gather there to celebrate his memory. Jewish pilgrims arrive from all over the world, 

Tomb of Rabbi Haim Pinto

Tomb of Rabbi Haim Pinto

But do not forget that the other tombs also have their share of history in Moroccan Judaism.

A long wall separates the old cemetery from the rocks and the sea. Tough, despite its height, this fence cannot always contain the waves that crash into the graves and erase their epitaphs.

This cemetery was used until around 1875. Around that date, burial began in a new cemetery opposite the old one.

The New Cemetery 

New cemetery

New cemetery

In the front part of the new cemetery, the graves are arranged in straight lines, in perfect order. These are the graves of the last deceased. The period was during the forty years before the departure of the Jews from Essaouira. We note that the latest graves date from 1963. 

The graves further inside the cemetery date from the years 1875-1930. They are in an incredible disorder: no alignment is respected.

It may be that the reason for this disorder is the devastating epidemics. The dozens of deaths that occur every day forced gravediggers to bury the dead anyhow.

In the old cemetery, the epitaphs have disappeared due to time and sea erosion. On the more recent graves of the new cemetery, the inscriptions are still legible. 

How To Get To The Cemetery

For those who do not know Essaouira, here is the way to get there: 

Leave the Medina of Essaouira by the Doukhalah Gate, east of the city. Go along the ocean. Then pass in front of the Christian cemetery. Now, you can already see the roof of the mausoleum of Rabbi Haim Pinto. 

Knock on the door of the new cemetery. Then ask the guard to open both the door of the old cemetery and that of the mausoleum. 

Do not forget to slip him a tip. He will leave you a regal peace.

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