Her family was well-educated and made sure that Al-Fihri and her sister, Mariam, received a proper education. It is said that Idris I decided that the capital Volubilis (now an excavated Berber city outside of Meknes) was too small a capital and sought something more lavish. Its sculpted dark wooden door stands almost hidden on the edge of a square where artisans hammer away at copper in a deafening din, delighting passing tourists. The House of Wisdom was built throughout the the 8th century CE during the Abbasid Dynasty. All of those articles can be found here. Chaouni added a new lab to treat, preserve and digitize some of the oldest texts, which include a ninth-century Quran, written in Kufic (the oldest form of Arabic calligraphy) on camel skin. Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. Al-Qarawiyyin library, the oldest working library in the world, has undergone extensive renovations and was recently unveiled to the public in Fez, Morocco. You can put makeup on someone who is very ill, and they’ll look good for a few hours, but on the inside they’re still very sick, so it won’t last’. Over the centuries, rain water poured off the roof of the neighboring mosque and infiltrated the library. "As a woman in Toronto, I still have to work twice as hard in a technical field to make myself heard. Having grown up in Fez, Chaouni was thrilled to be asked by the Moroccan government to transform the complex, which had fallen into disrepair over the years and was suffering from a long list of architectural problems, exacerbated by the heart and humidity of the Moroccan climate, including broken tiles and a poor drainage system. "We were always discovering things as we were ripping out walls," she says. The Qarawiyyin also compiled a large selection of manuscripts that were kept at a library founded by the Marinid Sultan Abu Inan Faris in 1349. You can thank two boss women for your access to this historic space. Although there are many areas of the complex not open to the public, you can still glimpse the institution from the side alleys around it and get a sense of its significance. In a way, the library's interior had an added allure for Chaouni, who grew up hearing family stories about her great grandfather, who to Fez from his village on a donkey to study at the illustrious university, and who spent many hours studying in the reading room at al-Qarawiyyin Library. "When you have books and water, it's a horrible recipe," she says. This minaret is in the rear of the Mosque opposite the mihrab and qibla wall in a similar fashion to those found in Qayrawan and the Great Mosque of Cordoba. Although the library was opened to the public in 839AD, a strict policy had been put in place, which restricted access to scholars only. The library was built in 1359 AD and houses some of the country’s precious artifacts, including important manuscripts considered to be among the earliest copies to be produced in Islamic history. The ancient al-Qarawiyyin Library in Fez isn’t just the oldest library in Africa. She wanted it to be a place people could visit and take in the history of Fez. The library was founded by Fatima al-Fihri, the daughter of a wealthy Tunisian merchant (she also founded the Qarawiyyin Mosque and Qarawiyyin University). State-of-the-art machinery can mend holes in ancient paper rolls, and prevent cracks in ancient scrolls. In this article, we will discover the compelling story of the Qarawiyyin Library and University, ... Meknes and Rabat). The Qarawiyyin complex is home to over 4,000 historical books and ancient texts written by renowned scholars and thinkers over the centuries. Once something of an intellectual mecca, visited throughout the centuries by poets, philosophers, politicians, polymaths and physicists, it is no surprise that at the heart of the medina lies one of Fez’s most important landmarks: the ninth-century Qarawiyyin library, Khizanat al-Qarawiyyin. Recently restored, the library is home to some incredible historical artefacts and offers a glimpse into the intricate and vibrant story of Fez, once the city of sultans. In the 14th-century, the pioneering historian and historiographer Ibn Khaldun is thought to have studied at the Qarawiyyin University. There is something magical about the medina, or old city, of Fez. Al-Qarawiyyin Library was a hub of intellectualism for hundreds of years following its founding in 859 C.E. Proof, were it needed, that Egypt’s role as the pivot of civilisation is far from ended. It is not only a library that is open to the public, but is also as a modern day homage to the ancient Library of Alexandria. Women Get Stuff Done . They are home to all of the world’s works and other forms of media, including films, CDs, videotapes, DVDs, Blu-ray Discs, maps, e-books, audiobooks, and databases. If you’re interested in learning more about Morocco and its history, click here. A curator inspects one of the oldest manuscripts found in al-Qarawiyyin Library. It was in 859 AD when Fatima El-Fihriyathe decided to build a university with its own library, for herself and the intellectuals of her time. Though the structural changes were, she admits, a major undertaking, they pale in comparison to the work she's done to bring the 9th century complex into the 21st century. Originally the mosque was built to be a medium size, about 30m long with four transversal aisles. Often described as ‘the man who invented modern history’ and ‘the father of philosophy’, the North-African historian is known for developing one of the first nonreligious philosophies of history in his ground-breaking work Muqaddimah. Today, the library houses Al-Fihri’s ninth-century diploma on a wooden board. Al-Fihri was married, but both her husband and father passed away shortly after the wedding. Situated inland in the north-east of Morocco, Fez is the oldest of the country’s four imperial cities (the others are Marrakesh, Meknes and Rabat). The project of collecting manuscripts and housing scholars... See full answer below. When the library at Morocco’s al-Qarawiyyin University was first built in the 9th century, it was one of the world’s great centers for learning. One standout discovery for her was a hidden room that had a 12th century cupola made with intricate lattice wood. The complex is made up of a library, mosque and university, making the university the first degree-granting institution in the world. In the early 9th century, they left Tunisia to settle in Fez, along with many other migrants. The Tunisian immigrant moved with her family to Fes in the mid 9th century. Making it modern, and making it open to the public -- and not just to researchers -- are the cornerstone of Chaouni's vision for al-Qarawiyyin. Fez was built by the first Muslim dynasty, the Idrissids in the late eight-century. Over the next four years, Chaouni and her team worked hard to transform the remarkable institution into a place that reflected its glory. From any vantage point in the city, you can make out the emerald-green tiled roofs of the library and university’s buildings. Inside the building, which was founded in 859, are priceless manuscripts including a ninth-century copy of the … Join our newsletter mailing list to gain exclusive access to special offers and promotions. Thanks to the confluence of two rivers, the city had a seemingly never-ending supply of water and it was close to quarries, from which building supplies could be sourced. "We knew where it was more or less, but could not enter. But modern life had taken a toll on the library, with its buildings falling into disrepair. It was this big, mysterious place," recalls Aziza Chaouni, a Fez native and the architect who has overseen al-Qarawiyyin's restoration. "Hopefully, by digitizing, we can make some of these manuscripts available online, and spread the knowledge way beyond Fez and Morocco," she says. While in Fez, he composed Mishneh Torah, a 14-volume text on Jewish law. The university compiled an excellent selection of manuscripts in various disciplines, which were kept at a library founded by the Marinid Sultan Abu-Annan in the eastern side of the courtyard in 750 AH (1349 CE) before being relocated, towards the end of 1000 AH (1591 CE), in its present location by the Saadid Emir Ahmed Al-Mansur .Among the most precious manuscripts in this library are volumes from the famous … The first is that al-Qarawiyyin was built by a woman, which challenges the common assumptions about women’s contributions to Muslim civilization. "The heritage needs to live. It is said that Idris I decided that the capital Volubilis (now an excavated Berber city outside of Meknes) was too small a capital and sought something more lavish. Al-Qarawiyyin library, built in 859 in Fez during the reign of Sul­tan Abou Inane Al Marini, contains priceless treasures. When it was first founded, Fez developed as two separate settlements on each bank of the Fez River. After excavating, Chaouni discovered what she described as a river running underneath the floors. Her father left his wealth to both Fatima and her sister, his only children. This is largely due to the fact that the Al-Qarawiyyin library suffered a large fire in 1323. Join us on a 12-month journey to see them all. In 1526, he completed what would be his finest work A Geographical Historie of Africa. Though the library isn't yet open to the public, it is expected to be in 2017. The result is true beauty. Our program takes us to contemporary feats such as the Aswan Dam and also to current crucibles of the Egyptian experience such as Tahrir Square. Opened in 859, it is thought to be the world's oldest library, and the maze of rooms were closed off to all but a few scholars and students of the university where it was housed. When her father died, many of Al-Fihri’s male relatives had passed away, which meant both Al-Fihri and her sister inherited a sizeable fortune. In 2012, a woman from Morocco's Ministry of Culture contacted Chaouni for an assessment. © Odyssey Travel 2020 All Rights Reserved, Al-Fihri and her sister inherited a sizeable fortune, Morocco tour for mature & senior travellers, Egypt tour: escorted small group history & cultural tour of Egypt, Ancient History of Jordan | Escorted Small Group Tour, Mungo Man and Mungo Lady, New South Wales. Fatima grew up being educated, along with her sister. In Muqaddimah, Khaldun theorised why civilisations rise and fall without looking solely at divine factors. This incredible city has a rich and vibrant history, from the oldest tanneries in the world, to the world’s oldest library in Al-Qarawiyyin Mosque. Explore Jordan, visiting its capital city, Amman Jordan, the ancient Desert Castles, Petra and the Dead Sea on a small group package tour for mature and senior travellers. Until now, the privilege of using the library has been limited to scholars who need to seek formal permission, and authorities haven't decided yet whether to change that. The al-Qarawiyyin library was built in 859, around the same time that the concept of zero was invented. The ancient al-Qarawiyyin Library in Fez isn’t just the oldest library in Africa. Al-Fihri also pioneered the idea of creating a place where you would not just be educated but would also be granted a certificate to show your education had been complete. Picture of books at the Qarawiyyin library — TRT World. If it was a man, he probably would have hired another man, one of his friends.". The University of Al-Qarawiyyin’s library is considered the oldest library … After the long-term development, the University of al-Qarawiyyin is known as one of the most influential institutions in history and also one of the most renowned universities all over the world for its historic setting, including a mosque and a library. Rich traditions and heritage are very much alive here, but there is also a paradoxical youthfulness to the culture that will draw you in. Founded in 859, it’s the oldest working library in the world, holding ancient manuscripts that date as far back as 12 centuries. Fez’s location, and the landscapes that surrounded it, proved to be auspicious. Courtyard of Al Qarawiyyin Founded 12 centuries ago by Fatima al Fihri (AP photo Samia Errazouki) Since 2016, when the Moroccan public could finally see for themselves Aziza Chaouni’s restoration of Al-Qarawiyyin University’s ancient library, presses have printed hyperbolic headlines. "It's probably the thing I'm most proud of," she says. The earliest libraries emerged not long after the first civilizations started keeping written records. This article was inspired in part by a chapter in Justin Marozzi’s book Islamic Empires: Fifteen Cities that Define a Civilisation entitled ‘Fez – the Athens of Africa’published by Allen Lane in 2019, as well as other articles linked throughout. Credited with founding oldest existing, continually operating and first degree-awarding educational institution, Fatima al-Fihri cuts a formidable figure in history. I've seen numerous articles online that mention that the library is now open to the general public but after visiting with a guide today I was told that entry is not allowed. When talking about other restoration attempts that had been carried out, Chaouni told CityLab ‘The internal organs needed work. An Antipodean travel company serving world travellers since 1983. In the past, the library was only accessible to scholars and students but Chaouni vigorously petitioned for part of the library to be open to the general public. It opened in 2002 and houses eight million books, four museums and a planetarium, amongst other state of the art facilities. Receive a AUD$350 voucher towards your first small group tour. The publication of this would see him established as one of the leading rabbinical thinkers of his time. After completing his education in Fez, he travelled widely through North Africa but during a voyage through the Mediterranean he was captured by Christian pirates and presented to Pope Leo X as a gift. The monk told Idris II that on the site their used to be a city called Zef and that one day, a man named Iris would ‘renew it, revive it from oblivion, make stand its ruins; and that its importance would be great, its destiny momentous’ (Marozzi 2019, p. 156). Founded in 859, it’s the oldest working library in the world, holding ancient manuscripts that date as far back as 12 centuries. Worth a visit FEZ - Nestled in a labyrinth of streets in the heart of Morocco's ancient city of Fez, stands the world's oldest working library. If you would like to discover the ancient city of Fez, and the world’s oldest library, check out our Odyssey tour to Morocco here and prepare for a memorable vacation like no other. As word about the prestigious educational institution spread across the empire, some of the greatest minds in the Islamic world flocked to Fez. She integrated new and sustainable technologies, like solar panels, an updated gutter system and water collection for garden irrigation. Its 12-century-old manuscripts have been sources of knowledge for researchers and students around the world. Sure, this gender-thing exists in Morocco, but it's still changed immensely from when I was a young girl and the time of my mother.". Fez was built by the first Muslim dynasty, the Idrissids in the late eight-century. To rescue the structure from further damage, she built an underground canal system to lead the water into the sewer. Over the years, the Qarawiyyin grew and quickly cemented its reputation as a centre of learning and culture. This is part of our collection of Morocco-related articles that we share as useful background information before you go on a Morocco tour with us, or to simply help you as you firm up your travel plans. The result was the multi-million pound restoration of Khizanat al-Qarawiyyin in Fez, the oldest library in the world, which is due to reopen later this year. Idris declares that he is that man and says he will reverse the name of the ancient city that once lay there. After years of neglect, the library is undergoing extensive renovation as part of a renewal program that will restore the Medina, Fes’ walled pedestrian historic district built in the late 8th, early 9th century. Built by a Woman, Restored by a Woman; Qarawiyyin, Symbol of Female Endeavor The article is a tribute to the Fez-born architect, Aziza Chaouni, who fought to reopen the Qarawiyyin library to the public, the oldest library in the… Al-Qarawiyyin library in Fez, Morocco opened in 1359 C.E., at the University of Al-Qarawiyyin (also the world's oldest, built in 859 C.E.). Al Fihri was born in Qayrawan, Tunisia to a wealthy merchant family. In this article, we will discover the compelling story of the Qarawiyyin Library and University, including the story of its ninth-century female founder and 21st-century female restorer. As well as the Qarawiyyin, there is much to admire in Fez, which is still seen as Morocco’s cultural capital. Given that a branch of the Fez River ran underneath the library’s floor, Chaouni constructed an underground canal that diverted the river. "I had no idea what lay behind its gigantic iron doors.". The library was built in 1359 AD and houses some of the country’s precious artifacts, including important manuscripts considered to be among the earliest copies to be produced in Islamic history. Chaouni is the latest is a line of women that have shaped the library's history. Building Al-Qarawiyyin Mosque. It can't be thought of as this mummy we need to preserve. Experience the local culture while wandering through the old city, visit the famous tanneries, try some of the city’s unique cuisine (dishes on offer includes  pigeon b’stilla, boneless braised pigeon cooked in spices, topped with almonds and wrapped in paper-thin warka pastry, and chebakia – deep-fried dough, coated in a honey and rosewater syrup and sprinkled with sesame seed) and take in the city’s beautiful scenery. Regarded by many as the greatest Jewish philosopher of the Middle Ages, Maimonides was born in Cordoba into a family of rabbinic scholars. "It's typical of the element of surprise you fine in Fez. The al-Qarawiyyin Library has long been a source of fascination for residents in Fez, Morocco, as few of them have ever passed through its doors. In the end, though, it was worth it to Chaouni to bring the library back to its former glory, and to make it accessible to the public for the first time. Gigantic iron doors. `` in the 1940s this historic space what would his... Project of collecting manuscripts and when was qarawiyyin library built scholars... see full answer below converting to! Amongst other state of the Ark of the Covenant story of the library and university ’ s buildings point that! Knowledge for researchers and students around the world be able to clarify name, email and. Her was a man, one of his friends. `` due to the threat of in. Learning more about Morocco and its history, click here travel company serving travellers! The second is that the concept of zero was invented from any point! 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