If you are in Morocco and are getting tired of the tourist hordes that frequently invade places like Agadir, Essaouira, Fes, Rabat and Marrakesh, then head east for the little sleepy, dusty, sandy and friendly oasis town of Rissani.
Only about 40 to 50 kilometres from the Algerian border, this town is off the beaten track, and only a few tourists and travellers get out there. Lying on the edge of the great Sahara, with only the oasis between it and the stony desert all around, this is a great place to spend some quiet days in the town centre or in the myriad of kasbahs dotting the oasis.
In and around Rissani
Just outside the town walls you will find some ancient ruins that originate from one of the Muslim dynasties of early Morocco.
You can also rent a bike and ride around in the very pretty oasis, check out the vibrant souk (market) in town, which is definitely more authentic than the souks in places like Marrakesh. The souk contains, among other things, spices, clothes, food, some jewellery and, of course, it has its own share of souvenirs as well.
The town also has a donkey parking lot which is really worth a look. The sight of about 60 or 70 donkeys standing around making one hell of a noise is something you'll never forget.
The Erg Chebbi is the biggest area of sand desert in northern Morocco. You can reach it from Rissani by a one hour bus ride, arriving in the tiny village of Merzouga. You can also arrange for a jeep to take you out there. While this tends to be much more expensive than the bus and also a lot more of a touristy ride, it's usually much easier to arrange. Whatever way you chose to travel to Erg Chebbi, Rissani is an excellent place from which to organize trips out there.
In the centre of Rissani, you will find hotels, cheap restaurants, banks, cafés, shops, a very good Internet café, and also a small and very cheap and friendly place that accommodates young people. 1, with very helpful people who will be able to help you arrange a cheap ride to Merzouga and the Erg Chebbi.
Getting to Rissani
Rissani lies east of the town Er-Rachidia, and you may catch a bus from there. There may also be buses heading straight for Rissani from places like Meknes, Fes and Rabat2.
Getting there is no problem. It only takes some time spent on rickety buses heading out there, right on the edge of Sahara and civilization.