Rissani stands on the site of the ancient city of Sijilmassa, Morocco's first independent southern kingdom, which flourished from the 8th to the 14th century. Founded in 757 by dissident Berbers, who had committed the heresy of translating the Koran to the Berber language (Islamic orthodoxy forbids translation from the Arabic of the direct revelations of God), Sijilmassa prospered from the natural wealth of the Tafilalt oasis and the Tafilalt's key role on the Salt Road to West Africa. But the city was almost completely destroyed by civil strife in 1393; archaeological excavations are now attempting to determine its former size and configuration. All that remains of Sijilmassa today is the excellent 13th-century gate Bab Errih, notable for the green ceramic-tile frieze over its three horseshoe arches.
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