Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Medieval City of Fes

Shop Amazon Computers - New Laptops for 2012

The Medieval City of Fes

   Fez is the medieval capital of Morocco, and a great city of high Islamic civilization. Fez has the best-preserved old city in the Arab world, the sprawling, labyrinthine medina of Fes el-Bali, which is incidentally also the world's largest car-free urban zone. Transports of goods is provided by donkeys, carriages, and motorbikes.
   Fes el Bali is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its medina, the larger of the two medinas of Fes, is believed to be the world's largest contiguous car-free urban area. The University of Al-Karaouine, founded in AD 859, is the oldest continuously functioning university in the world. It has been called the "Mecca of the West" and the "Athens of Africa


Fes or Fez (Arabic: فاسFās, French: Fès) is the second largest city of Morocco, following Casablanca, with a population of approximately 1 million (2010). It is the capital of the Fès-Boulemane region.
Fes, the former capital, is one of the country's four "imperial cities," the others being Rabat, Marrakech and Meknes. It comprises three distinct parts, Fes el Bali (the old, walled city), Fes-Jdid (new Fes, home of the Mellah) and the Ville Nouvelle (the French-created, newest section of Fes).
Fes el Bali is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its medina, the larger of the two medinas of Fes, is believed to be the world's largest contiguous car-free urban area. The University of Al-Karaouine, founded in AD 859, is the oldest continuously functioning university in the world. It has been called the "Mecca of the West" and the "Athens of Africa".[\
         The city was founded on a bank of the Fez River by Idris I in 789, founder of the Idrisid dynasty, the works being continued on the opposite bank by his son Idris II (808).[3]
     Arab emigration to Fes, including 800 Al-Andalusian families expelled after a rebellion which took place in Córdoba in 817–818, and other 2,000 families banned from Kairouan (modern Tunisia) after another rebellion that took place in 824, gave the city a definite Arab character. 'Adwat Al-Andalus and 'Adwat al-Qarawiyyin, the two main quarters of Fes, were called respectively after the two waves of Arab immigrants to the new city.[4] During Yahya ibn Muhammad's rule the Kairouyine mosque, one of the oldest and largest in Africa, was built, together with the associated University of Al-Karaouine was founded (859).[5]
     After Ali ibn Umar (Ali II) came to power, the Berber tribes of Madyuna, Gayatha and Miknasa, which were Sufrite Kharijites, formed a common front against the Idrisid and, after defeating Ali's armies, occupied Fes. They were driven out of the city by Yahya ibn Al-Qassim, who declared himself Ali's successor.[6]
      The city was populated by Muslims from elsewhere in North Africa, the Middle East, Moriscos (especially after the Spanish conquest of Granada in 1492), as well as many Jews, who had their own quarter, or Mellah, in the city. The two halves of Fes were united in 1069, after the destruction of the wall dividing them. Although losing its capital status to Marrakech and Tlemcen under the Almoravids, Fes became the scientific and religious center, where both Muslims and Christians from Europe came to study. In 1250 it regained its capitals status under the Marinid dynasty.
    the Early Modern Age, the Ottoman Empire neared to Fes after the conquest of Oujda in the 16th century. In 1554 the Wattasid Dynasty took Fes with the support of the Turks, and the city became a vassal of the Ottomans, who finally conquered it in 1579 under sulat Murad III.[7] The Ottoman power in the North Africa concentrated itself more on the threats posed by Habsburg Spain and the Portuguese Kingdom. As a result, Fes was not under pressure by the Ottoman rulers. The conquest of Fes was the catalyst for the move of the capital city of the Saadi Dynasty to Marrakech City. At the beginning of the 17th century the town returned under      Morocco with Ahmad al Mansur.[8]
     After the fall of the Saadi Dynasty (1649), Fes was a major trading post of the Barbary Coast of North Africa. Until the 19th century it was the only source of Fez hats (also known as the tarboosh), before they began to be manufactured in France and Turkey; originally, the dye for the hats came from a berry that was grown outside the city, known as the Turkish "kızılcık" or Greek "akenia" (Cornus mascula). Fes was also the end of a north-south gold trading route from Timbuktu. Fes was also a prime manufacturing location for leather goods such as the Adarga.
It became independent in 1790, under the leadership of Yazid (1790–1792), and later, of Abu´r-Rabi Sulayman, who fell however to Morocco in 1795. In 1819–1821 Fes took part in the rebellion led by Ibrahim ibn Yazid, as well as to the 1832 rebellion, led by Muhammad ibn Tayyib.
   Fes was again the capital of Morocco until 1912, when most of Morocco came under French control and Rabat was chosen as the capital of the new colony, a status retained even when Morocco achieved independence in 1956. While many of the original inhabitants of Fes have since emigrated, the Jewish quarter has been emptied of its Jewish population (in 1465, there was large massacre of Jews by Arab riots.[9]), and the economy has stagnated. Despite the traditional character of most of the city, there is also a modern section, the Ville Nouvelle, or "New City", which is a bustling commercial center. The popularity of the city has increased since the King of Morocco took a computer engineer from Fes, Salma Bennani, as his wife.


   Located along the Atlas Mountains, Fes has a seasonal climate, shifting from cool in winter to hot days in the summer months of July–September. The nights are always cool (or colder in winter), with daytime temperatures generally rising about +9~14 C° (+15~26 F°) every day. The winter highs typically reach only 16 °C (61 °F) in December–January .
Fes is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination and many non-Moroccans are now restoring traditional houses (riads and dars) as second homes in the Fes medina. The most important monuments in the city are:
Bou Inania Madrasa

   The Madrasa Bou Inania (also Bu Inaniya) is a madrasa in Fes, Morocco, founded in AD 1351–6 by Abu Inan Faris who also founded the Madrasa Bou Inania in Meknes. It is widely acknowledged as a major example of Marinid architecture. "Bou Inania" comes from the first part of the sultan's name "Abou Inan". The madrasa functioned as both an educational institute and as a congregational mosque at the same time. It is the only madrasa in Fes which has a minaret. Opposite the main doorway of the madrasa is the entrance to the dar al-wudu (ablutions house). Left and right of the central court are class rooms.
  According to history religious leaders of the Karaouine Mosque advised Abu Inan Faris to build this Madrasa.[1] It was the last madrasa to be build by the Marinids. The madrasa became one of the most important religious places of Fes and Morocco, gaining the status of Grand Mosque.
The madrasa has been renovated in 18th century. During the reign of Sultan Mulay Sliman entire sections were reconstructed. In the 20th century, major restoration work was carried out to the load-bearing structure, the plaster, wood and decoration.
The madrasa is one of the few religious places in Morocco that is accessible to non-Islamic tourists. Opposite the Madrasa Bou Inania is the Dar al-Magana a wall with a hydraulic clock which was built together with the madrasa.
  Al-Attarine Madrasa
The Al-Attarine Madrasa is a madrasa in Fes, Morocco, near the Al-Qarawiyyin. It was built by the Marinid sultan Uthman II Abu Said (r. 1310-1331) in 1323-5. The madrasa takes its name from the Souk al-Attarine, the spice and perfume market.
 University of Al-Karaouine

   The University of Al-Karaouine or Al-Qarawiyyin (Arabic: جامعة القرويين‎) (other transliterations of the name include Qarawiyin, Kairouyine, Kairaouine, Qairawiyin, Qaraouyine, Quaraouiyine, Quarawin, and Qaraouiyn) is a university located in Fes, Morocco which was founded in 859.[1] The madrasa has been (and still is) one of the leading spiritual and educational centers of the Muslim world.
    The Al Karaouine madrasa played a leading role in the cultural and academic relations between the Islamic world and Europe in the middle ages. The cartographer Mohammed al-Idrisi (d. 1166), whose maps aided European exploration in the Renaissance is said to have lived in Fes for some time, suggesting that he may have worked or studied at Al Karaouine. The madrasa has produced numerous scholars who have strongly influenced the intellectual and academic history of the Muslim and Jewish worlds. Among these are Ibn Rushayd al-Sabti (d. 1321), Mohammed Ibn al-Hajj al-Abdari al-Fasi (d. 1336), Abu Imran al-Fasi (d. 1015), a leading theorist of the Maliki school of Islamic jurisprudence, Leo Africanus, a renowned traveler and writer, and Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon.
   The Al Karaouine institution is considered by the Guinness book the oldest continuously operating academic degree-granting university in the world.[2] However, this claim on precedence appears to confound the distinct nature of madrasas and medieval universities which followed very different historical trajectories until the former were expanded to the latter in modern times,[3][4] and fails to take into account that the medieval doctorate out of which academic degree/modern university degrees originated had deviated from the Islamic Ijazah certificate.[5][6][7]
Zaouia Moulay Idriss II
   The Zaouia Moulay Idriss II is a zaouia (shrine) in Fes, Morocco, dedicated to and tomb of Moulay Idriss II, who ruled Morocco from 807 to 828 and founded the city of Fes for the second time in 810.[1]
In the year 1308, almost five centuries since the death of Moulay Idriss II, an uncorrupted body was found on the spot. People believed this was Moulay Idriss II and founded the Zaouia. Over the centuries, the building was amended heavily, and almost completely replaced in the 18th century by Moulay Ismail in a style typical of the Alaouites that govern Morocco to this day.[2]
Moulay Idriss II is the patron saint of the city of Fes, and it is believed that visiting his zaouia is beneficial for strangers visiting the city, boys before being circumcised and women wanting to facilitate childbirth[3].

Dar al-Magana

  Dar al-Magana (Arabic for "clockhouse") is a house in Fes, Morocco, built by the Marinid Sultan Abu Inan Faris which holds a weight-powered water clock. The muwaqqit[1] Abou al-Hassan Ibn Ali Ahmed Tlemsani[2] was responsible for building the clock, which was finished on 6 May 1357. The Dar al-Magana is opposite the Bou Inania Madrasa and connected to this school.
The clock consists of 13 windows and platforms carrying brass bowls. The motion of the clock was presumably maintained by a kind of small cart which ran from left to right behind the twelve doors. At one end, the cart was attached to a rope with a hanging weight; at the other end to a rope with a weight that floated on the surface of a water reservoir that was drained at a regular pace. Each hour one of the doors opened; at the same time a metal ball was dropped into one of the twelve brass bowls. The rafters sticking out of the building above the doors (identical to the rafters of the Bou Inania Madrasa) supported a small roof to shield the doors and bowls.[3]
  The bowls have been removed since 2004 and the clock mechanism [4] is presently being reconstructed by ADER, a foundation for the reconstruction of monuments in Fes.


Ibn Danan Synagogue (Fes)

   The synagogue was once only one of several inside the walls of Fes, and not the most elaborate. It is entered through a simple doorway indistinguishable from the doors of nearby houses. The door leads immediately to a short flight of stairs that lead into the high, rectangular space of the synagogue.[1] The construction is masonry coated with plaster. The wooden ceiling is beamed and painted. The room is lit by small windows high in the walls. Photos taken in 1954 show a ceiling hung with numerous memorial lamps, now vanished.[1] The walls are wainscotted with blue figured Moroccan tiles. The large Torah Ark, a cupboard filling the width of an entire wall, is made of carved wood. The wall above is decorated with intricately carved plaster work.[1] Opposite the Torah Ark is a raised alcove, separated from the main prayer space by a wooden screen elaborately carved with a series of arches. It was intended as a seating area for the congregations more distinguished members. The bimah is accessed from this space, constructed as a small platform cantilevered out form the raised area. The wooden bimah is topped by a wrought iron canopy of Islamic-style arches and floral forms, culminating in a crown.[1]

Plaque at the synagogue
A very early restoration is known to have taken place in the 1870's.[1] More recently, the Jewish community of Fez has also struggled for its preservation, and successfully nominated the building to the 1996 World Monuments Watch of the World Monuments Fund. According to the Fund, the plaster was peeling, the roofs were collapsing, the waterlogged beams were rotting, and windows were broken and missing. The organization helped restore the synagogue with funding from American Express and in collaboration with Morocco's Ministry of Culture and the Judeo-Moroccan Cultural Heritage Foundation (Fondation du Patrimoine Culturel Judeo-Marocain).[2] Following the restoration, the synagogue reopened in 1999.[3]