Rissani: The city of 360 Ksars

Rissani is located 22 km south of Erfoud, along a road adjacent to a stream in the Ziz region. It represents the last vestiges of vegetation before the Sahara Desert emerges on the horizon.


The Rissani region comprises a group of villages along the last stretch of the Ziz Valley. This town was the ancient capital of Tafilalt (later known as Sijilmassa), the Holy City, and the cradle of the Alawite dynasty. Its situation as a crossroads between north and south gave the city-specific importance in the past. Even today, there are traces of that greatness. It gives us the impression of being a beautiful and quiet place, which only comes alive on market days.

The Sijilmassa religion was the Shiite branch of Islam, a branch of this religion that today has become extinct in Morocco. From the 8th to the 14th century, Rissani was the capital of the principality of Sijilmassa, founded in 707. The current Alawite dynasty undertook its conquests until reaching  Fez and  Marrakech.

What is Rissani known for?

Rissani is a town located in eastern Morocco, and it is known for several things. It is considered the birthplace of the Alaouite dynasty, which is the current ruling dynasty of Morocco. Rissani is also famous for its traditional markets, called souks, which attract visitors from around the world. The souks of Rissani are particularly known for their spices, pottery, and carpets. Additionally, Rissani is situated near the Erg Chebbi dunes, and it serves as a popular gateway for those who wish to explore the Sahara desert.

What to see in Rissani

Of the many places to see in Morocco, Rissani is a proposal if your route takes you through the Sahara desert. Here are some exciting places to visit. Among them, the ones that stand out the most are:

The Kasbah of Rissani

It builds in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as the residence of the governor of Tafilalt.

The mausoleum of Mulay Ali Chérif

This mausoleum is only accessible to Muslims. It was built in the mid-20th century and destroyed during a violent overflow of the Ziz River, but it restores immediately. It was the fortress from which the Alawites departed. Today it is the mausoleum of the founder of the dynasty. Although the site is sacred and non-Muslims prohibit from visiting the adjoining mosque, the courtyard is accessible to all visitors from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day.

Ksar abber

Next door is the Ksar Abber, built in the early 19th century, a former palace used as a prison. The fortress sheltered a large part of the imperial treasure, protected by a triple fortified wall, equipped with cannons, and guarded by a garrison of soldiers. But unlike the mausoleum, the Ksar Abber of Rissani needs better preserved.

Ksar El Fida

Located just 4 km north of Rissani, Ksar El Fida is home to an impressive Alawite Kasbah dating from the 19th century. This kasbah was converted into a museum in 2005 and can be visited every day from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. In his collection, we find rugs, objects of daily life, and portraits of the Alawite dynasty. The entrance fee is 10 Dh.

Ksar of oulad Abdelhalim

It is an imposing fortress built around 1900. It is one of the most beautiful palaces in Rissani, although its interior needs to be better preserved. However, its fortified walls and high towers stand out.

Merzouga, Erg Chebbi and its dunes

One does not come to Rissani if ​​it is not to visit the desert of Merzouga. A 53 km track takes us to that town and the Erg Chebbi dunes, the largest in Morocco, reaching more than 150 meters in height.

Things to do in Rissani

Here are some things to do in Rissani:

Visit the Rissani Market

The Market is a traditional souk that takes place on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays. Here, you can buy traditional Moroccan handicrafts, spices, and clothing.

Explore the Ksar of Rissani

The Ksar of Rissani is an old fortified city that dates back to the 17th century. It was once an important trading center on the Saharan caravan routes.

Visit the Mausoleum of Moulay Ali Cherif

The Mausoleum of Moulay Ali Cherif is a religious site and the burial place of the founder of the Alaouite dynasty. It is an important pilgrimage site for many Moroccans.

Take a camel trek

The surrounding desert landscape is perfect for a camel trek. You can ride a camel through the desert and experience the natural beauty of the area.

Visit the nearby fossils workshops

Rissani is surrounded by desert and mountains rich in fossils. Many workshops in the area sell these fossils, including ammonites and trilobites.

Go on a 4×4 excursion

Explore the desert by going on a 4×4 excursion. You can drive through the Erg Chebbi dunes, visit a nearby oasis, or drive through the mountains.

Visit the Erfoud Date Festival

The Erfoud Date Festival is held in early October and celebrates the harvest of the local date crop. The festival includes music, dancing, and a variety of traditional foods.

Visit nearby towns and attractions

Rissani is located near many other attractions in southeastern Morocco, including the Todra Gorge, the Merzouga Desert, and the Draa Valley.

Rissani Hotels

Find the best accommodation and hotels in Rissani and Morocco at the lowest prices.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the history of Rissani?

Rissani is considered the center of the establishment of the honorable Alawite state due to its containing the shrine of Moulay Ali Sharif, referred to as “Moulay Ali Sharif Al-Sijilmasi,” the grandfather of the Alawites. However, it’s noted that he is not the founder of the Alawite state, which is attributed to “Moulay Ali Sharif of Marrakchi.” Additionally, the city houses the shrine of Hassan al-Dakhli, also known as “Moulay Hassan al-Sharif, coming from Yanbu al-Nakhl.” This shrine is esteemed by tourists and locals alike for its geometric shape and magnificent decoration.

Throughout the city, there are numerous palaces that serve as evidence of the region’s rich history and cultural heritage. These palaces are characterized by towers and entrances adorned with decorative designs, showcasing the engineering and architectural prowess of the Villali people. Furthermore, the presence of a “dekkana,” a meeting room for palace or Kasbah sheikhs, reflects the advisory system among residents, facilitating cooperation in various communal activities such as building waterways, distributing water resources, and providing aid to those in need. Welcoming visitors to the city is a stylized arch at its entrance, serving as a distinctive landmark.

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