Sefrou's Second Generation

Tuesday, September 30, 2008 | Sefrou, Morocco (map)

Sefrou's warm streets were largely deserted on this sleepy morning near the end of Ramadan.
On Sunday, Jacqueline and I joined Elena (another Fulbrighter) on a visit to the little village of Sefrou (صفرو), a 30-minute drive from Fes along a highway flanked by rows of olive trees. There is little to do in Sefrou, we found, particularly during Ramadan, when the town's cafes are closed during the day. We walked a mile or so up the road to a series of small waterfalls, then spent an hour or two exploring the small walled village.

About 8,000 members of Morocco's once sizable Jewish population built and inhabited the town, straddling a small river in the hills south of Fes. Today, however, there are no Jews in the village and the synagogue is shuttered and abandoned. Its small Hebrew plaque was the only indication I saw of the town's original heritage. Sometime in the second half of the last century, Jewish communities from Sefrou and elsewhere in Morocco emigrated en masse to Israel. Whether their
decision was motivated by animosity here, in their longtime homeland, or by other forces I do not know, though it is a topic I'm interested to learn more about in the coming months.

Sefrou is dominated by its markets, which take up the majority of the street space during the day. We browsed the produce on offer, and picked up some pomegranates, oranges, avocados, ginger, and saffron as we looped through the town.

Though we had planned a day trip, we returned to Fes by noon.

* * *

Ramadan is drawing to a close; tomorrow is Eid al-Fitr, the holiday which marks the end of the month of fasting. With Arabic classes consequently canceled for the rest of the week and most Moroccans spending time with their families, Jacqueline and I are taking the opportunity to do some traveling. Today we rented a car—a toy-sized, neon orange Kia. Why neither of us thought to get a refresher course in driving stick shift before we left the States is beyond me, but we've managed to coax our little Kia (despite the occasional violent bucking) through a gas station and home tonight.

We're cautiously optimistic about our chances of reaching Chefchaouen tomorrow, some 75 miles north of Fes, then traveling along the Mediterranean coast toward al-Hoceima before returning here Sunday.

Save your prayers—the poor little Kia's transmission is likely to need them more than we will.

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