Fantastically remote and fiercely independent, Zaouiat Ahansal was founded in the 13th century by travelling Islamic scholar Sidi Said Ahansal, who, according to local legend, was instructed to establish a religious school wherever his cat leapt off his mule. Happily for Sidi Ahansal that location sits astride a prominent crossroads between the Central High Atlas and the plains of Marrakesh and is blessed with fresh water and abundant grazing frequented by the powerful Aït Abdi and Aït Atta nomads.
As a result, the region prospered materially and intellectually. Libraries, religious schools, saints' houses and highly decorative ighirmin (collective granaries) testify to this wealthy cultural heritage. Even today a significant number of pilgrims continue to visit the region during the Islamic month of shawaal, bearing gifts of clothing and food for Saint Sidi Said Ahansal and his descendants.