Ronald A. Messier

The fertile Tafilelt oasis on the northern edge of the Sahara desert provided sanctuary for the Kharijites, an eighth-century A.D. faction of Islamic fundamentalists who sought to distance themselves from the more mainstream dynasts in Damascus. In 757 they founded Sijilmasa, the first Islamic city in Morocco, and soon set about organizing the oasis’s water resources. The Kharijites built an elaborate system of cisterns that collected the water necessary to irrigate the city’s numerous gardens, date palmeries and fields of grapes, spices and grain.