The currently ruling Alaouite dynasty is a family
of Arabs descended from the Prophet Mohammed. The
first Alaouite ruler, Moulay Rachid, came from
the southeast oasis of Tafilalet and took power
from the Saadians in the 1660's. According to a
legend, he proved his worthiness to be Sultan by
defeating a strong Jewish political leader and
businessman in the mountains of eastern Morocco.
Through capturing the caravan routes in eastern
and western Morocco, Moulay Rachid was able to
ensure the cooperation of Jewish traders in
financing the new empire.
Moulay Ishmael succeeded Moulay Rachid in 1672
and completed the task of pacifying Morocco. He
constructed his capital in the city of Meknes.
During his 55 year reign, Jews were protected
from violence, although they were taxed highly.
In 1679, he forced the Jews to construct the
Meknes mellah. Meknes attracted Jewish immigrants
from throughout Morocco, and the mellah was
relatively prosperous in the beginning of the
18th century. Elsewhere in the country, Jewish
traders grew wealthy from increased trade with
Europe and within Morocco.
After the death of Moulay Ishmael, Morocco fell
into 30 years of anarchy. By the 1760's, Moulay
Mohammed was able to create some political
stability. The Sultan increased the economic and
political importance of the Jews through
populating coastal cities with Jewish traders. He
installed Jews in the Portuguese city of Mazagan
(El Jadida) and created the port of Mogador
(Essaouira). He declared that all trade was to go
through Mogador, so that he could better control
customs revenues. The Sultan asked wealthy Jewish
families throughout the country to send family
members to become traders in Mogador, where they
received special financial treatment. Islamic law
was applied liberally in Mogador, enabling
Mogadorian Jews to be the first Moroccan Jews to
dress in Western clothing.
When Moulay Mohammed died, his son, Moulay Yazid,
succeeded him. Moulay Yazid had an intense hatred
for the Jews and incited pogroms throughout the
country between 1790 and 1792. He encouraged
attacks on the mellahs of Tetouan and other
cities. The worst treatment was reserved for
Meknes and Fez. The Jews of Fez were forced to
leave the mellah for two years. Marrakesh Jews
also received an expulsion order, and their
mellah was pillaged.