You might want to check out my Merzouga homepage. All the memories are coming flooding back! You will have an amazing time! It does get very cold in the winter in Merzouga though so bring a good sleeping bag and some warm clothing for the night.
On your way from the the market with vegetables, herbs and spices to the impressive place where the villagers park their donkeys you can find separate marketplaces for animals.
So we had a look at the place where the sheeps are sold. (picture 1,2 &3). The next place we looked inside was the place for the cows. When we came in the morning there are a lot, but in the late afternoon only a few were left.
Coming from north-west by the N13 from Erfoud or by the N12 from Nkob you will enter Rissani by a huge gate, the so-called bab. You can't miss it.
I can't remember I entered Rissani by a gate in 1975. Anyway when I came back to Rissani after 33 years this nicily decorated bab with bright yellow, red and green colours looked rather new. Together with the palmtrees and the minaret of the mosque it is a nice ambiance.
After the almost empty roads in the desert, the livily mainroad into town was a big contrast. Because of the marketday there was a lot of traffic, not only cars and minibusses, but also carts, donkeys and pedestrians, all passing the gate.
One of the greatest places at the market to visit is the place where the donkeys are. When I came back to Rissani in 2008, I could easily find back the place, walking a bit to the northern area of the market along the Avenue Moulay Ali Cherif.
It's a rather big open area, where the visiting villagers of the market and the souqs park their donkeys. It's always a rather busy place with people coming and going. I visited the place in the morning, but also at the end of the market day just before sunset. Around this time the last owners with their donkeys are about the leave.
When I came back to Rissani in 2008 I visited two times the market. There are three market days in Rissani, sunday, tuesday and thursday.
At the market you can buy a lot of vegetables and fruits from the villagers coming from the surrounding villages in the palmeraie. But I saw also spices, herbs, clothes, shoes, kitchen utensiles and plastic articles.
In 1975 I saw mainly men in town and at the market. In 2008 I saw also lots of women and youngsters around. I enjoyed the livily atmosphere around.
The Zawiya Moulay Ali ash-Cherif is the mausoleum of the founder of the Alawite dynasty. After the demolition floods of the Wadi Ziz the mausoleum is rebuilt in 1955.
When you arrive at the place, you see a nicily decorated gate. Behind the gate is an innercourt leading to the tomb of Ali ash-Cherif. This tomb is closed to non-muslims.
Behind the mausoleum are the ruins of the Ksar Aber of the 19th century. This ksar housed once the unwanted and disgraced members of the dynasty.
Not far from the mausoleum you can start also the 21 km long Circuit Touristique through the palmeraie of Rissani with lots of interesting ksour.
When I visitt Morocco I like it to wander around in the souqs. During my stay in Rissani in 2008 I visited the towncentre, the souq and the market two times, both times at market days.
Sunday, tuesday and thursday are the market days in Rissani. I don't know how the town will be at the other days, but when I was there at sunday and tuesday, the area around the souq was filled with minibusses, donkeys and charts. The souq itself was also very livily with lots of people around, looking around, trading and bargaining.
It was very special to be back at the place where I visited 33 years ago. I couldn't remember exactly how the souq looked like in 1975, but I felt the same excitement to be there because of the vibrant atmosphere and the experience of the daily life in a market town at the edge of the desert.
Maybe in Rissani started also my addiction for markets, especially the African ones. I liked the bustling activities, the colours, the smells at the market. Rissani has Morocco's most African market. At the market I saw lots of fruits, dates, animals like sheep, goats and camels and many more articles of all kind. There was a continuous activity of trading and bargaining.
Rissani is one of the world's largest date palmeraies, with some 4 million trees and more than 100 varieties of dates. Each autumn a festival of dates is held. Rissani is also an important religious centre, based on the tomb of Moulay Ali Sherif, the founder of the ruling Alaouite dynasty.
The small town of Rissani is at the end of the Ziz valley. The centre of the town is small and easily to explore. In this Moroccan town I walked for the first time on my own exploring the souqs and the markets. At one hand is was a very easygoing place, at the other hand there was a bustling activity of trading people.
In October 1975 we were the only visitors in Rissani, coming from outisde the area. In Rissani I did my first shopping and bargaining, a relaxed place to exercise before going to the souqs of Marrakech and Tanger later. And maybe a good learning place. In 2001, 26 six years later, I got a compliment in Zagora "You bargain like a Berber".
After my first visit in 1975 I came back in Rissani in 2008. After 33 years the town looks a lot bigger, especially the outskirts. The roads into town and in the towncentre were a lot busier with all types of traffic. Busy shopping and market streets, crowded parking places for cars, minibusses.
The towncentre itself is rather small. I could easily find my way around the souqs and market area. I recognised some of the streets and found the places where the sheep, cows and camels were sold, very easily too. And yes I found the parkinglot for the donkeys too, a livly place at market days.
I had the feeling that in 1975 the atmosphere was a bit more relaxed and easygoing, but I enjoyed also the more vibrant ambiance in 2008.
I always love seeing the donkeys that are parked here by the riders coming to market from around the area - especially being a sizeable number of donkeys being kept here for safe keeping its quite a sight with character - donkeys playing up, getting irritable!?(biting and kicking, jumping around) but looking cute! - along with the donkey chiropidists and so on!
You will find this area if you head just behind the Tues, Fri, Sunday travelling markets that are held to the left of the permanent souk.
This is in addition to the donkeys that are for sale at the donkey markets.
The Ksar of Tinerhas - ksar meaning fortified stronghold - is still inhabited and is built graduating its way up a large rock which from the top has nice views over the area.
From here there are good views in all directions - over the plains in which palms grow and movies were made to the palmeraie south of Rissani to Erfoud and to the orange dunes in the distance of the Sahara of Merzouga.
Park your car at the bottom and walk up but make sure you do lock your car properly and keep valuables out of sight.
Famous fortified villages along the route named as such as its a pretty 21 km driving circuit from Rissani - include the Ksar Oulad Abdelhalim built for Sultan Moulay Hssan's brother around 1900 which still has a substantial amount of decoration remaining, and the Ksar Aber which was once housed disgraced or unwanted members of the Alawite family.
Other ksars include Ksar el-Beidha, Ksar Haroun and several ksars on the road to Mezguida near here.
This area was once the ancient city of Sijilmassa of which there are some ruins over the 2 mile area that the city once covered. Some say this city was founded as early as 757 AD but the by the end of the 8th century it had an important role on the trans-Saharan trade routes becoming rich from the trade in gold, ebony, ivory, salt and slaves. Internal feuding led to its collapse in the 14th century.
There are good views from the top of the rock that this Ksar is built up onto.
At the bottom was a large water reservoir from which numerous people including young children were seen arriving and departing from to fill their waterbottles.
This 21 km loop around the palm groves south of Rissani takes you past lush wheat and grain growing fields, through villages and ksars - which are like huge fortified mudbrick villages - and old ruined ksars including ruins of the ancient previous city Sijilmassa - which some say was around as early as 757 AD.
This road becomes a little rough in places and the tarmac one car width narrow but its an interesting and scenic route getting a look at the life and culture of those living around the area.
Still many children come running out to see whos coming past, ask for stylos and bon bons or just sweetly smile and wave!
Included in this circuit is the Ksar of Tinerhas built up on a rock which gives good views over the area including the plains and palmeraie where movies have been made and views out to the orange dunes of the Sahara of Merzouga.