Sijilmassa
   This is the name of the medieval trans-Saharan trade entrepôt, founded near what is Rissani today in southern Morocco. This name, though, used in scholarly and literary works, fell out of common currency and was replaced by Tafilalet. The Banu Midrar or Banu Wasul established the city of Sijilmassa in 757 as a trade entrepôt as well as a platform to proselytize Berbers and the Sudan into Islam. They are Maknassa who are said to have participated in the Sufrite (Kharijism) revolt of 739-740 in Tangier. Under the leadership of Abu al-Qasim Samku ben Wasul, they settled in the oasis of Tafilalet, and later they were joined by other Sufrite fugitives from the north. At the end of the eighth century, Sijilmassa became a Muslim capital city after it acquired a city wall having 12 gates and a large Friday mosque. According to historical accounts, its population was cosmopolitan, made of veiled Sanhaja Berbers, Haratine, Jews, and Andalusians as well as Berbers and Arabs from various parts of North African and the Middle East. In 976, Banu Midrar's control over Sijilmassa collapsed as the city was conquered by the ally of the Umayyad of Spain, Khazrun Ben Fulful, chief of the Maghrawa tribe.
   Sijilmassa is known for its historical role in the trans-Saharan gold trade with ancient Ghana. From the 11th to the 14th centuries, trans-Saharan trade was regulated and attracted Arab, Muslim, and Jewish merchants from the east and Muslim Spain. Gold was transported north to Sijilmassa and then west to Fès, and during this period Sijilmassa had a mint that issued its first coins in 947. By the 15th century, the city had lost much of its trade traffic as its routes became vulnerable to pillaging from unallied Arab and Berber tribes. By the end of the 16th century, the region declined as trans-Saharan trade shifted to western routes using the Drâa valley-Marrakech route. In 1511, internal conflicts as well as fresh Banu Ma`qil Arab tribe invasions quickened the collapse of the city, whose inhabitants sought refuge in surrounding villages. These villages were referred to collectively as Qsabi Sijilmassa (villages of Sijilmassa) even though the original medieval town of Sijilmassa had disappeared.

Historical Dictionary of the Berbers (Imazighen) . . 2014.

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