Rissani

Is a town in eastern Morocco, located near Erfoud. It is in the region of Er-Rachidia, and is the closest town of significant size to the Erg Chebbi, the largest sand desert in Morocco. Its population in 2004 was 20,469.

 

The region of Rissani, also known as Tafilalt, is made up of a cluster of villages along the last stretch of the Ziz valley, with the town of Rissani as the penultimate point as well as centre. From the 8th until the 14th century this was a kingdom by itself, known as Sijilmassa, thriving from the caravan routes that passed through. The religion of Sijilmassa was Shi’i Islam, a direction of the religion which today is extinct in Morocco. Even earlier than that, it was from here that the Alouites came and conquered the whole of Morocco through the 17th century.

Rissani region is well worth your time; local authorities have put up road signs for a touristic route, some 21 km long. It will lead you by several ksours and relaxed villages. The first important one is the Zawiyya of Moulay Ali Sharif, the founder of the Alouite Dynasty; it comes about 2.5 km out of Rissani town. Next to it, there is the Ksar Abar, which was the place for unwanted members of the royal family. About 2 km further is the Ksar Ouled Abdelhalim, with its huge ramparts. Thereafter, there are fairly few clear attractions before the scant remains of the ancient capital of Sijilmassa. There are 3 market days a week in Rissani town; Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. The market may not be incredibly impressive for a tourist, but it is the real thing only aiming at local customers.

Should you be in the mood, Berber jewellery can be potentiall good buys here. Other days, Rissani town is a peaceful place, and it may be a better option to stroll its streets when they are almost empty.