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Damanhur

(737 words)

Author(s): Sasha Goldstein-Sabbah
Damanhur (Ar. Damanhūr; from Anc. Eg. Timinhur) is a small town in the Nile Delta region of Egypt approximately 60 kilometers (37 miles) southwest of Alexandria and is today the capital of Buhayra Province. The earliest mention of Damanhur is in the Qawānīn al-Dawānīn, an administrative survey of towns and lands for tax purposes, by Ibn Mammātī(d. 1209). It is also mentioned by the traveler Ibn Jubayr (d. 1217) and the geographer Yāqūt (d. 1229), both of whom note that it was a medium-sized walled town. The Cairo Geniza documents make no mention of Damanhur, …

Macias, Enrico (Gaston Ghrenassia)

(649 words)

Author(s): Sasha Goldstein-Sabbah
Enrico Macias (né Gaston Ghrenassia) is perhaps the best-known Jewish musician from North Africa. Born in Constantine, Algeria, on December 11, 1938 into a highly musical family, he began playing the guitar at a very young age. At fifteen, Macias played guitar in the famed orchestra of Raymond Leyris (known as Cheikh Raymond), in which his father, Sylvain Ghrenassia, was a violinist. He was not, however, encouraged to pursue music full-time, and instead became a teacher to young, primarily Muslim students in Aïn Frain.  In 1961 Raymond Leyris was brutally murdered, and in the …

Mimouna

(1,300 words)

Author(s): Sasha Goldstein-Sabbah
The Mimouna (Mīmūna) is a minor noncanonical holiday that marks the end of the Passover festival. It was traditionally celebrated in Morocco and western Algeria. Jews from eastern Algeria, Tunisia, and Tripolitania had similar customs related to the end of Passover but not specifically those of the Mimouna. From ancient times, minor celebrations known as Isru Ḥag (lit. bind the sacrifice; Psalm 118:27) marked the day following each of the three pilgrimage festivals (Passover, Sukkot, Shavu’ot) throughout the Jewish world, but they usually only e…

Daoud, Reinette Sultana (Reinette l'Oranaise)

(387 words)

Author(s): Sasha Goldstein-Sabbah
Reinette Sultana Daoud, better known by her stage name Reinette l’Oranaise, was an internationally renowned singer and musician. Born in 1918 in Tiaret, Algeria, into a family of modest means, and blinded by smallpox at the age of two, she attended a school for the blind in Algiers until her mother, taking note of her powerful voice, encouraged her to take up music. She was then sent to study with Saoud El Médioni (Saoud l’Oranais), a prominent performer of Arabo-Andalus…

Bismuth, Joseph Roger

(224 words)

Author(s): Sasha Goldstein-Sabbah
Joseph Roger Bismuth was born on November 4, 1926 into a modest family in La Goulette, the heavily populated suburb of Tunis where many Jews lived at the time. Bismuth is a self-made man who started out as a construction worker. Today he is the owner of several corporations in industries ranging from cosmetics to electronics to lollipops. His main holding company is the Groupe Bismuth, which is based in Tunis. He is also a member of many international and local business organizations, such as the Institut Arabe des Chefs d’Entr…

Ghrenassia, Sylvain

(261 words)

Author(s): Sasha Goldstein-Sabbah
Sylvain Ghrenassia, born in Constantine on February 2, 1914, was a prominent violinist in colonial Algeria. Although primarily known for his skill in performing mālūf music, he was also accomplished in the hawzī, zjūb, and maḥjūz styles of  Andalusian music. Many of the pieces he played were originally composed for the oud ( ʿūd), but he adapted them to the violin, as did other musicians in his day. Ghrenassia was a member of the famous orchestra of Raymond Leyris (Cheikh Raymond) in…

Melilla

(772 words)

Author(s): Rica Amran | Sasha Goldstein-Sabbah
Melilla (Mod. Ar. Mlīlya; Berb. Tamlilt, the white one; Med. Ar. Malīla) is a port city on the northwestern coast of Africa, today under Spanish sovereignty, but claimed by Morocco. It was probably founded by the Phoenicians under the name of Rusadir, alluding to a nearby cape. In the centuries that followed it was under Punic, Roman, and Visigothic rule and finally was incorporated into the Idrisid kingdom of Fez. It came under Fatimid suzerainty in the early tenth century, but in 930 it was taken by the Umayyad caliph of al-Andalus ,ʿAbd al-Raḥmān III, who fortified it and put it und…

Marriage

(6,923 words)

Author(s): Esther Juhasz | Judith Olszowy-Schlanger | Sasha Goldstein-Sabbah | Leah R. Baer | Melanie Lewey | Et al.
1. Medieval Period The institution of marriage in the Jewish communities of the medieval Islamic world followed the basic rules and customs prescribed in the Talmud. These were often blended with local customs and conditions, depending on place and time. The main sources on Jewish marriage in medieval Middle Eastern and North African communities, in addition to the rabbinic literature, are the actual marriage and betrothal contracts preserved in the Cairo Geniza.       Marriage involves a change in the personal status of a man and a woman from bachelorhood to matrimony tha…