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Rissani stands on the site of the ancient city of Sijilmassa, Morocco's first independent southern kingdom, which thrived here 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 and the Filalis, as they were known, prospered from the natural wealth of the Tafilalt oasis and the Tafilalt's key role on the Salt Road to West Africa. Sijilmassa was almost completely destroyed in civil strife in 1393; archaeological excavations are now attempting to determine the city's 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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