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Travel: Seder Pesach in Tangier, Morocco 4/5/23

Updated: Apr 10, 2023

The one month travel, around few European cities ended in the visit to San Sebastian

(here) and few Basque villages around it (here) in Spain

On April 5th the flights from Barcelona with the connection in Madrid to the Tangier Morocco destination, all departed punctuality and we’re uneventful .

Departing Barcelona Flying toward the Coast Line Leaving the Spanish Coast

Until landing in Tangier... actually we landed twice..

The weather over the air crossing of the Straits of Gibraltar was very windy and the Mediterranean sea water looked from the plane very choppy and cover with white

foamy waves

Upon the first landing the plane almost touched down the landing course and at the last minute, before hitting the ground, the plane, suddenly ascended again back in air heading toward the coastline, over the sea. Then made a huge circle heading back before trying another landing which was successful the second time…

Approaching Tangier Coastline

in between the 2 landings, no explanation was provided by the plane's crew and the passengers got nervous speculating we might have had heading back to Madrid..

.Apparently the strong winds made the first landing unsafe, thus was the second..

It was strange to discover that Tangier has a 2 Taxi systems, the blue color one is licensed to give a short distance rides only within the city center limits,

The other pale yellow one, is licensed to give rides beyond it , longer distances like to and from the airport..

The pale yellow Taxi we picked at the airport dropped us half an hour later at this charming El Minzah historic hotel

This refined 1930th hotel, exhibiting a Spanish-Moorish themed décor, and overlooks the Straits of Gibraltar, the bay of Tangier and Rif Mountains, is located in the heart of Tangier near the old medina (old town) ,

It offers 2 restaurants & a piano bar, plus an outdoor pool & a health club.It also features lush, neatly landscaped gardens of palm, eucalyptus, quint patios and wonderful terrace views. of the bay.

Known people such as Winston Churchill ,,Kofi Anan , actors as ,Rex Harrison , Claude Van Dam , Omar Sharif, Rock Hudson,Ralph Fines and several Princesses and many more.. were lodged at the hotel

It was a grand hotel which declined from its grandeur. but is still beautiful ..

Its hay glamorous days of the past, are long gone, It has not been properly maintained.

as it should, for the 5 stars rated hotel, it claims to be..

Furthermore at the distant time it was the only worthwhile hotel, in town for VIP guests to stay at . However now a days it competes with the many more and trendy American style luxurious hotel resorts, on the Cornish strip, farther away from the old center..

The other 5 star hotels are not in the city center. , Thus we still preferred to stay at this special centrally located el Minzah hotel with its Moroccan ambiance, then in some American chain. hotel.

Once checked in, a Google search, at the last minute, about a Tangier locally

Passover Seder, revealed, that one such, would be conducted at Al Howrah Hilton Resort, which is situated about 40 minuted Taxi drive away. from the el Minza hotel.

Amazingly we discovered that a NYC based organization named Totally Jewish Travel

arranges a vacation destination of Jewish Kosher Holidays celebrations, for observant Jews ( most from NY) at various cities around the world..

Totally Jewish Travel -Passover Programs Worldwide

PESACH 2023 program at the 5-STAR HILTON TANGIER AL HOUARA RESORT & SPA. offering "the PESACH experience of a lifetime"

‎+1 209 752 4011 Contact : Tzipi

After few whatsapp and a phone call with Tzipi, from NYC, just 4 hours prior to the start of the Holiday, Tzipi was wonderful to arrange for us to join the Seder meal that eve, at the Hilton, with sitting arrangement, at the Rabbi's long table.

Hilton Tangier Al Houara Resort & Spa

A beachfront hotel overlooking the ocean within 60 acres of protected forest,

with Golf and a Polo Clubs just next to the hotel

The story of 2 Taxi Drivers

The hotel accidentally booked 2 Taxi drivers for our excursion . They were arguing in Moroccan shouting style, when we came down to the Taxi fighting abput who is the “ correct “ driver . David told them to "fight each other and the winner will drive us".

When the argument almost became physical , David chose the more civilized the "Anthony Queen" “ looking driver - .,named Said , who also could communicate in an Cambridge learned English, that gave him a greater advantage.

Said ,a very sympathic 60 years old, confessed immediately that people always comment that he resembles the actor Antony Quinn, He is a father of 2 adult children, and lived most of his adult life in the UK, working in tourism for the Holiday In chain, thus he is fluent in several languages.

Being an only child, compelled his return to Morocco to care for his elderly parents (now in their 90th) and he is happy he is back.

Said's whatsapp contact # is +212 697 83 95 99 (recommended)

Sun Set at the Hilton

That Seder at the Hilton, was definitely a unique "memorable experience"...

The huge luxury resort was privately "closed off" and Kusherized for the 9 days of the Passover Holiday to about 400 Orthodox Jews, 2-3 generations per family and multiple 2-5 kids per family, arrived to celebrate as an ad hok community, away from their home relieved of the "slavery labor" preparations, that the holiday prescribes.

They were not from one specific congregation base, but individual families from NY mainly Brooklyn and Great Neck as well as from France, Belgium ,,, and Israel, according to the few we had conversation with.

It is not the crowd we get a chance to encounter, let alone socialize with,, but those we conversed with were mot welcoming and engaging,so we were totally intrigued by the experience.

In the social hour “ pre Seder get together “ I realized that I was the only female who wore panis as I took no dresses with me on this trip. However all the attending women were wearing mainly lengthy long sleeve dresses and many with wigs.

And all men with Kippas and some had payes.

Most were modern Orthodox or Charedim mainly Mizrahi. but also Ashkenazi,

The prayers were held in a Mizrahi tradition as well as in an Ashkenazi , in 2 separate hospitality rooms converted, for the festive occasion to a synagogue.

It was not appropriate to take more photos within this observant crowd once the Holiday

started, so , sorry for the lack of additional photos

During the pre-Seder social hour, David also connected to a well dresed dressed distinguished looking man, who turned out to be the invited Sfaradi Rabi - Nir Shalom.

Rabbi Nir Shalom

Originally, an Israeli Iraqi from Ramat Aviv, who spent for the past 20 years active in Great-Neck, NY, Rabbi of the Babylonian Jewish Center.

In 1997, members of the Iraqi Jewish community established a second congregation in Great Neck, New York, under the name of Babylonian Jewish Center. The center's aim is to create an environment to preserve, promote and continue the culture, tradition and heritage of the Babylonian Jews through religious, social and educational means.

Rabbi Shalom who led a wonderful Mizrahi Seder ,invited us to sit at the elongated tabled, with his wife Sigal, their the 4 children., and some other guests.

Sigal the Rabbi's wife taught in Yeshiva University, and apparently as both are "Reform" supporters , they conveyed to David, between the extended meal courses. their opinion on the importance of the Reform,

David, who thinks exactly the opposite, managed to peep a“ scholarly" and civilized discussion so there was no antagonism..

Their son, Shiloh who was raised in the US and is also an orthodox a, made Aliya and lives in Ramat Gan. He served in the Air Defense Force and is a High Techie but his political views also differs from his parents and he is not a Bibist .

Somewhere in the midst of the eve David who of course, wouldn't miss an opportunity to share his opinions, was active with his comments, which the Rabbi accepted with pleasure, and surprise, especially as the other Cheredi members sitting at the table,

less engaged and more silent.

And I contributed to the discussion, on the meaning of the words/passages in the Hagada , with comments imported from the Jewish reform movement , which the Rabbi and his wife actually enjoyed listening to and liked,, either pretending or really hearing them them, for the first time, After all the Rabbi saw his roll, that evening

in particular, as the inclusive unifying force, for all the splinters on the Jewish religious spectrum. We definitely were the ad-balls Israelis in this Orthodox crowd, placed on

the far secular edge,

However the 4000 years of sharing the Pesach traditional story, along with all conversing in Hebrew -our mother tongue, had liberated us all, that unique night, from the bondage of all divisive elements and stereotypes, as to truly enjoy the festive evening in the company of each other ..

The kosher food ,Kettered by a chef named - IItzik Cohen .- who was flown especially with all the Kosher ingrediances , Matzas and wine, was plenty and OK. but not more. .

There were both Gefilte fish for the Ashkenazi crowd, next to spicy fish -Chrieme consumed by the Mizrachi, Neither the chicken broth nor Kniedalach were addable

At 11:30 pm when the food consumption was still going on, high and mighty.. and only half of the Hagada was read, we took the Taxi back to our own hotel in the city center ,

We felt uncomfortable letting our Taxi driver Said, to continue fasting and further delay his return to his family for the Ramadan meal, on our account,

.Overall this Seder Pesach was unique and inspirational event , where we discovered Jewishness we know of but rarely previously experienced.

To be Continued


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