The Ziz River Valley – Tafilelt

by Tadd Debbie, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

The Ziz River winds through Errachidia, Erfoud and Rissani, creating a massive oasis. The region is known as the Tafilelt, which Moroccans regard as the 17th century birthplace of the current dynasty ruling the country, the Alaouites.

The Tafilelt also is precious to Moroccan history as the site of Sijilmassa, a city constructed as a port for the trans-Saharan caravan trade in the 8th century, particularly for the gold that enriched successive Moroccan dynasties. Sijilmassa was attacked many times and eventually was destroyed in the 14th century.

Jews lived in Sijilmassa and, after its destruction, the rest of the Tafilelt. Some of them played important roles in financing the caravan trade, while others made handicrafts and other vital products or transported and sold them. Ruins of Sijilmassa, located near Rissani, extend for five miles. The Tafilelt became a vital center of Jewish learning, with rabbis who corresponded with their counterparts in Europe and the Middle East.