Rissani is undoubtedly a one-of-a-kind city. The city is the cradle of the renowned Alawite dynasty and was built on the location of the famous city of Sijilmassa. It contains the grave of Moulay Ali Cherif, the father of this great dynasty. It is a beautiful sanctuary built in commemoration of one of Morocco's grand figures in history.
The building was constructed during the reign of Sidi Mohammed Ben Abdellah (1747-1790), and it was renovated in 1997 after a flood has destroyed the place. It is one of the most stunning historical monuments in the Tafilalet region.
An architectural wonder
The mausoleum is accessed through an enormous and exquisite door decorated with tiles and very elegant mosaics. It is open to a beautiful garden and a courtyard with multiple wooden doors covered with captivating engravings. You then enter the large room, which houses Moulay Ali Cherif’s grave, a place of meditation full of peace and serenity. Another door leads to the mosque dominated by a beautifully decorated dome.
The mausoleum also contains the graves of Moulay Ali Cherif’s sons, Moulay M’Hammed and Moulay Youssef, in addition to Moulay Ali Cherif’s. The tomb, which attracts hundreds of pilgrims each year, is a powerful symbol of the early adventures that led to the emergence of the Alaouite Dynasty.
Moulay Ali Cherif, the first Filalien leader in the early 17th century
In 1631, the Chorfas Alouettes of Sijilmassa proclaimed Moulay Ali Cherif in response to the expansion of the Zaouia of Dila, a politico-religious pole of Shadiliya inspiration installed in the center of Morocco. This event occurs during Morocco’s political turmoil following the fall of the Saadian Dynasty.
Moulay Cherif, the head of the Filalian Chorfas, is the great-grandson of Moulay Al Hassan Ben Al Kassim, known as Ad-Dakhil, an Alaouite from Yanboo in Hijaz in Arabia, and who is related to Hassan, son of Fatima, herself the daughter of Prophet Muhammad and Ali his son-in-law. Its settlement in Tafilalet dates back to 1266/1267, at the start of the Marinid era, and coincides with the rule of Sultan Abu Youssef Yaâkoub Ben Abdelhaq Al Marini and the arrival of several Bani Maâqil Arab tribes.
Dealing with the political challenges caused by the competition between the Zaouia of Dila in the middle of the country and Dar Iligh of Souss surrounding Tafilalet as a prosperous region, Moulay Ali Cherif, an active and pious man, abdicated in 1636, and it was his son Moulay Mhammed (1636-1664) who was elected to replace him. Moulay Ali Cherif died in 1659 and was buried in the Zaouia of Tighmert, 200 kilometers from Rissani, before being moved to the current grave.
Several public buildings, including the airport and the Errachidia Hospital Center, bear the name Moulay Ali Cherif as a symbol of tribute and recognition.
The legendary character is also the inspiration for a scientific and cultural Moulay Ali Cherif University, which became Rissani’s annual cultural meeting, but whose sessions are also conducted in other cities throughout the Kingdom.