Sijilmasa. Golden Center of the World / Złote centrum świata

The further we move south down Morocco, the landscape reminds us more of that on the Moon. The towns enshrouded with the clouds of sandy dust, were revealing themselves only after we were surprisingly arriving in their center. Eyes, turned in our direction on the streets of Errachidia were a proof that tourists are a rare sight here. We now found ourselves within the Berber territory.

Czym dalej na południe Maroka, tym krajobraz bardziej przypominał ten księżycowy. Spowite chmurami piaskowego pyłu miasteczka stawały się widoczne dopiero gdy pełni zaskoczenia odnajdywaliśmy się w ich centrum. Oczy zwrócone w naszą stronę na ulicach miasta Errachidia dowodziły, że turyści rzadko zapędzają się w te okolice.  Znaleźliśmy się na terytorium Berberów.

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Two worlds meet in this fascinating place. / Dwa światy spotykają się w tym fascynującym miejscu.
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You think Route 66 is exciting? Check out N13 in Morocco, especially if you run out of fuel. / Myślicie, że Route 66 jest ekscytująca? Zmierzcie się z N13 w Maroku, tylko zaopatrzcie się w wystarczającą ilość benzyny.

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Those sandy towns are are called “ksar” and are common in Morocco and Algeria. / Te piaskowe miasta nazywane są “ksarami” i są powszechne w Maroku oraz Algierii.
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Though they seem empty, they are still inhabited by whole tribes. We will visit a couple of them in my next post. / Pomimo tego, że wydają się być puste, wciąż są zamieszkane przez całe plemienia. Odwiedzimy kilka z nich w moim następnym poście.

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There is no point in looking for shade, fresh water or even a moment of respite from the heat here. Adobe ksour, which in spite of time are still inhabited, are hard to be told apart from the sandy mountains. Around them, endless fields, scoured by shepherds tirelessly seeking scarce grass patches, which could feed their sheep. During one of our rare stops, Aga ventures far to offer an orange to one of the shepherds. This fruit, along with bottle of water and pieces of dried meet which he carries in his bag, will have to do for his lunch on that day.

In those circumstances, the valley of river Ziz emerges like a mirage. For ages it has given shelter and nourishment to Berbers as well as travelers from all the parts of the world. Wadi Ziz has its source in the Middle Atlas and flows 282 kilometers (175 miles) towards the sands of Sahara Desert in Algeria. Here, on the south-eastern edge of Morocco it gives life to a beautiful oasis, full of palm trees and bushes. It is rare yet long-awaited sight.

Próżno szukać cienia, świeżej wody czy choćby chwili wytchnienia od upału. Gliniane ksary, w których, mimo upływu czasu wciąż toczy się życie zlewają się w jedną całość z otaczającymi je piaszczystymi górami. Wokół nich bezkresne pola, przeczesywane przez pasterzy niestrudzenie szukających nielicznych kęp trawy, którymi mogliby wykarmić swoje owce. Podczas jednego z naszych nielicznych postojów, częstujemy jednego z nich pomarańczą. Ten owoc, oprócz bukłaka wody i kawałków suchego mięsa niesionego w torbie będą musiałby posłużyć tego dnia za obiad.

Niczym fatamorgana objawia się w tych okolicznościach dolina rzeki Ziz. Od niepamiętnych czasów daje schronienie i pożywienie Berberom oraz wędrowcom z różnych części świata. Wadi Ziz ma swoje źródło w środkowym Atlasie i ciągnie się na odległość 282 kilometrów aż do piasków Sahary w Algierii. Tutaj, na południowym wschodzie Maroka zasila piękną oazę, pełną palm i krzewów. To rzadki i jakże wyczekiwany widok.

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It is hard to believe that in the Middle Ages, the valley of Ziz was one of the most important spots on the world’s map. It was here where the center of trans-Saharan trade, a great and legendary city of Sijilmasa existed.

From the south the transports included ivory, animal hides and slaves, notably from Ghana and Mali. On the other hand, the northern gate was being crossed by camels carrying ceramics, silk and books. Sijilmasa was also an agricultural paradise. According to some Arab geographers the life-giving waters of Ziz ensured the crops could be harvested for 3 years in a row without a need of resowing.

Among all though, Sijilmasa which was conquered by the Almoravid dynasty in 1054 lied on a gold trade route between Europe and Africa, controlling it for more than 300 years! It is hard to imaging the riches, which it hid and surely still hides deep underground. Especially seeing what’s left from it nowadays…

Bardzo trudno jest uwierzyć, że w średniowieczu dolina rzeki Ziz była jednym z najważniejszych punków na mapie świata. To tutaj znajdowało się centrum handlu trans-saharyjskiego, wielkie, legendarne miasto Sijilmasa.

Z południa transportowano tutaj kość słoniową, skóry i niewolników między innymi z Ghany czy Mali, a północną bramę miasta przekraczały wielbłądy obładowane ceramiką, jedwabiem oraz książkami. Była też Sijilmasa kolebką rolnictwa. Wedle arabskich geografów życiodajne wody Ziz sprawiały, że tutejsze zboża dawały plony przez 3 lata pod rząd bez konieczności ponownego ich siania.

Nader wszystko jednak, podbita przez Almorawidów w 1054 roku Sijilmasa leżała na trakcie handlu złotem pomiędzy Europą, a Afryką, kontrolując go przez ponad 300 lat! Trudno wyobrazić sobie bogactwa, który skrywała i z pewnością wciąż skrywa głęboko pod ziemią. Szczególnie, patrząc na to co po niej zostało…

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The ruins of Sijilmasa lie along the Ziz river near the town of Rissani. They can be visited. / Ruiny Sijilmasa leżą wzdłuż rzeki Ziz, niedaleko miasteczka Rissani. Można je zwiedzać.

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Though I do not deal in gold transport anymore, I am still very important here. Wciąż jestem bardzo ważny, chociaż nie zajmuję się już transportem złota.

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***

There are not too many hotels along the N13 route. There are a few in Midelt, Errachidia as well as Rissani in the south. Expect to pay 100DH per night, another 50DH for hot water access and expect the lowest quality possible. South of Rissani you will find some modern ksars to stay in, which also offers trips into the desert

***

Wzdłuż trasy N13 nie znajdziecie zbyt wielu hoteli. Parę jest w Midelcie, Errachidii oraz Rissani na południu. Koszt to około 100DH za noc idodatkowo 50DH za ciepłą wodę. Oczekujcie raczej najniższej jakości. Na południe od Rissani można za to znaleźć nowoczesne ksary, które poza noclegiem oferują również wycieczki na pustynię.

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61 thoughts on “Sijilmasa. Golden Center of the World / Złote centrum świata

  1. It must have been a colourful world back then in the Middle Ages. I wonder if the climate was much different from nowadays creating another landscape. But it was probably the same.
    Wish you a safe journey!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I suppose so, though since they lived there, they most probably worked the Ziz river more and thus, had more fields, oasis, canals etc. Time passed and desert regained the area pushing the river back to its initial bed. You are right, the world must have been full of surprises and wonders, more than nowadays in the age of globalization.
      We are now safe in Poland Hanna, I am retracing my steps from Morocco, perhaps someone will get inspired to travel the same or similar route. Thank you and all the best!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Ahh, great question John. Hope I won’t disappoint you but the decision to come to Morocco was a quick and random one.
      We are fascinated by other cultures and wanted to experience something else than Europe or US. Then… Morocco has so much history. Africa is a crib of humanity and I wanted to see it, even if Morocco is just a tiny part of it.
      We stayed in Morocco for 3 weeks, yet our itineraries are always quite busy.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Old times. Yes, it seems like time has stopped there. Even if the Berbers own mobile phones now ;-) You know, often we found nothing in people’s homes, absolutely nothing… but TV and a mobile phone were a must-have!

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    1. Thank you Dan! It is off the beaten track indeed.. most people rush south to Merzouga to get to the dessert. Rarely would they stay longer in the area to visit the ksour. Pity… they are a wonderful sight!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. These pics are incredible! I would not want to be traveling alone on that highway! It does not surprise me that Aga offered drink and food, angel on earth. I could not find your site and cannot remember when I last visited. I am so happy to see a post!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. So glad you’re here Belinda ☺ Indeed, one would not like to find himself/herself alone on this route, creepy. Yet beautiful! We though those shepherds must be exhausted, so…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh I’ve waited for your post for quite some time :-) it’s amazing how you manage to bring travel, exploration and history together! Love the blog… Waiting for the next one! Cheers

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank You! I guess that in those circumstances, people tend to be more appreciative of what they have and what they achieve. In more modern cultures, we are never satisfied and we always want more. Struggle, yes… but aren’t You more happy living like that?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Well you are right… Those that have little appreciate it a lot more and also live life uninhibited… We as a society have found ways to have a pleasurable life but with complaints and dissatisfaction! It was food for thought… Thanks :-)

          Liked by 1 person

    1. That is one of the kindest comment I ever got! I thank you because this also motivates me very much to keep writing! I did not intend to focus that much on history, but they I got sucked into it! Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah well I think that’s really the X-factor in your articles… Well my mother is a historian so I enjoy history a lot and knowing about places’ histories is definitely one of my pet passions… Through your blog, I can know so much without even visiting those beautiful places! Also, your blog gives me a great insight into the lives of so many cultures… I’m only adding these places to my already long list of must-visit places :-)

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Never been to Egypt, though fascinating, it’s not safe to travel alone, as far as I’ve heard.
            Whatever you have heard of Machu Picchu is true! It is an AMAZING sight – make it your top priority :-)

            Liked by 1 person

    1. Lands we see and visit hide so much. It’s rarely visible from the outside. Everything and everyone has its own history, fascinating one… Like your family for that matter ☺

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank You Sue! Oh, wait until you see the Draa valley. It is fantastic, literally. My beloved place in Morocco and the most stunning sights O have ever seen. Coming soon ☺

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Maroko zawsze mnie zachwyca. Krajobrazy, kultura, jedzenie.
    Cudownie tam !!
    Może teraz po przeprowadzce do Barcelony, będzie mi łatwiej się znów tam wybrać

    Liked by 1 person

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