About
Sijilmassa (pronounced see-jill-moss-uh), a national historic site recognized by Morocco's Ministry of Culture, was the fabled and ancient Berber capital of the Tafilalet Kingdom located at the northern edge of the Sahara desert that once rivaled Marrakech. Founded in A.D. 757 on the banks overlooking the Oued Ziz, a river in the oasis region of the Sahara desert, Sijilmassa grew wealthy and powerful during the Middle Ages as a gold-trade-route city strategically located at the exit-point of the western Trans-Saharan caravan trade route -- which extended from the Niger River in the Sudan to Tangier in northern Morocco. From the 10th to the 12th centuries Sijilmassa was the center of the Gold trade between Morocco and the Sudan, and its legendary glory owes much to this position. Even after its fall as a great commercial center and caravan endpoint, the region of Sijilmassa remained instrumental in the minting of gold brought from the Sudan. Until the 10th century, control over the right to mint coins was held by the central government in the Orient as a means to control the vast expanses of the Arab world. Gold became a key resource in managing the growth of Arab and European economies in the North, and when confronted with the lack of it in their own territories, they started spinning myths about the abundance of gold south of the Sahara that greatly increased caravan commerce. As the flow of gold increased, the temptation to refine and mint it on the way, rather than at its final destination also increased. The minting of gold in Sijilmassa was one of the first acts of rebellion of the Fatimid dynasty, who originated from what is modern day Tunisia (Ifriqiya). In doing so, they directly opposed the ruling government in Baghdad. Sudanese gold refined in Sijilmassa also made it to Europe, where it was minted into European coins. The identical quality and gold proportion between European and Moroccan coins attests to the importance of trade between these regions- and it seems that Europeans minted similar coins precisely to purchase Maghrebi luxury goods. Sijilmassa was initially destroyed in 1363 and rebuilt by Sultan Moulay Isma'il, one of the first rulers (1672 - 1727) of the Alaouite dynasty that governs Morocco today. Ultimately, the city of Sijilmassa was conquered by Ait Atta nomads in 1818. The Roman ruins and Grand Mosque, which was last rebuilt in 1796 and serves as the central feature of this medieval town, are made of unbaked brick that require continual maintenance to preserve. In 1996 Sijilmassa was included on the very first World Monuments Watch "List of 100 Most Endangered Sites", a list created to focus international attention on the cultural significance and threats to endangered locations worldwide, as well as to help raise the necessary funds for preservation. The Watch is a program of the World Monuments Fund (WMF), a New York-based non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and protecting endangered works of art and architecture around the globe.
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Peter R
Dartford, UK1,228 contributions
Sept 2022
On our walking tour of Rissani we walked around the ruins of the old Berber city of Sijilmassa. There is not much left of the buildings of this once great city, other than one walled area.
The site is recognized by Morocco’s Ministry of Culture, but there is no protection and you can wander wherever you wish. As you walk through the site you discover broken pottery, which litters the ground and can just be picked up and carried away. Sad that the Ministry does not protect the site better.
Written 31 October 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

CPaM68
Texas660 contributions
Sept 2021
The route leaving Erfoudon on our Trafalgar Tour took us near Sijilmassa where we stopped and explored an old well (cave). The well was part of the ancient khettara irrigation system that dates back to the 11th century. Some of the wells (caves) have been opened to the public to visit. The one we toured had a large opening with a pulley system above it and a ladder that led down to an underground channel/tunnel. On the surface, you could see a series of these wells dug in a line 40-60 ft. apart. As I understood it, the wells were not dug to find water but to get deep enough underground that they could dig tunnels to connect one well to another. Also, if the underground channel became clogged, someone could easily get in to fix the problem. I compare it to a modern-day city drainage system with giant concrete pipes underneath the streets, but then has covered manholes every so often, so if there is a problem, someone can go down the manhole and fix it. Just imagine the amount of work it took to build these, since it was all done by hand. Our guide said that at one time there were over seventy-five different channel systems that fed water from the High Atlas and the Ziz River. Ultimately, insufficient water resources and unsustainable practices dramatically lowered the water table, drying up many of the khettara. Some khettara continued to function until the early 1970s, when new technologies and government policies forced changes, resulting in a loss of local control over water resources and a total abandonment of the khettara irrigation system. (PaM)
Written 5 June 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

VicCosentino
Sacramento, CA431 contributions
Apr 2019 • Friends
Maybe because it was all clay, weathering made the ruins pretty bleak for such a large settlement. It was OK but I wouldn't go out of the way to visit this one.
Written 6 June 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

milliesmum2016
Christchurch, New Zealand1,811 contributions
Apr 2019 • Friends
Near Rissani and Sijlimassa there is an irrigation system dating to the 11th century. You can visit it as parts of it have been opened to the public. There arestairs leading down into the underground channels and from there you can see how the wells which can be seen from the road, are fed. There were elaborate pulley systems at each well, made of wood and rope to bring the water to the surface. Just imagine the amount of work it took to excavate this by hand. It is long and very extensive and fed from the High Atlas and the Ziz River.

On line I found an interesting article about the system and I have included the Abstract of the article so you can follow up if you want better information than I can give:

Moroccan Khettara
Dale R. Lightfoot
Abstract A 300 km network of khettara (qanat) subsurface irrigation channels was excavated in the Tafilalt basin beginning in the late 14th century. More than 75 of these chains provided perennial water following the breakup of the ancient city of Sijilmassa. Khettara continued to function for much of the northern oasis until the early 1970s, when new technologies and government policies forced changes. Data on origins, maintenance, and current use were collected from archival sources, aerial photographs, Landsat imagery, and from interviews.
Written 1 June 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

sandra n
Sun City, AZ1,281 contributions
Oct 2018 • Couples
Land Travel through this area was interesting and our tour guide helped to explain this history. Loved the Ziz valley and the Ziz Valley River before arriving at Sijilmassa. The landscape there reminded us of the West back home. Then the ruins leave everything to your imagination, because you stand at a "fading" former city, showing what the elements over time have done. It is a picture of who has won and the sands have changed this landscape forever. We prepared here for our journey into the Sahara, the ultimate timeless desert with our imaginations waiting.
Written 26 May 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

podrozniczka60
New Jersey14,834 contributions
Jan 2019 • Couples
The site on Wadi Ziz is open to elements of the environment and you need a bit of imagination to recreate in your mind the visions of its former glory. Sijilmassa flourished for centuries but now only magnificent ruins remain.
Written 14 February 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

flaneur40
New York City, NY1,718 contributions
Nov 2018 • Solo
There isn't much to see, at least not where we stopped, but it is amazing to see what existed before modern-day Rissani and how what was once such a flourishing trade city can become so meager and wispy. You'll see it as you drive into modern-day Rissani. Stop and walk around or take a tour.
Written 9 December 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

MoroccoPrivateTour
8 contributions
Apr 2018 • Family
Rissani or Sijilmasa ( سجلماسة‎ Sijilmassa, Sidjilmasa, Sidjilmassa and Sigilmassa) was a medieval Moroccan city and trade entrepôt at the northern edge of the Sahara Desert in Morocco. The ruins of the town extend for five miles along the River Ziz in the Tafilalt oasis near the town of Rissani. The town’s history was marked by several successive invasions by Berber dynasties. Up until the 14th century, as the northern terminus for the western trans-Sahara trade route, it was one of the most important trade centres in the Maghreb during the Middle Ages.
Written 10 April 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

KiwiKerry53
Wellington, New Zealand4,633 contributions
Oct 2017 • Couples
Not a lot left, and sadly the ruin is neglected and delapidated as it sits open to the harsh reality of the desert sands and scorching sun. Really is quite sad.
Written 20 February 2018
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Merzouga S
1 contribution
Aug 2016 • Friends
sijilmassa day tour in rissani it's mazing to know it by local guide Younes his english fantastic he do his best to understand him for all trory around rissani tenghras too molay aly sharif and mesouem alfida
Written 7 November 2016
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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