Magnificent mosques, winding streets and picturesque squares characterize the old town of Fez, one of the best preserved medieval cities in North Africa. The city, which has become rich through handicrafts and trade, is still of great cultural and religious importance and one of the four important royal cities of the country. Central buildings include the tomb of Moulay Idris II, the sixteen-aisled Karawijin Mosque, the Medresen Bou-Inanija, Seffarin, Attarin and the Dyers’ Quarter.
Fez medina: facts
|Official title:||Medina of Fez|
|Cultural monument||Fès el-Bali, next to Marrakech one of the four important royal cities; Medina et al. with tomb (Zaouïa) of Moulay Idris II., the second largest Moroccan mosque, the university and 17-aisled mosque Kairaouine, the most famous madrasah in the city, Bou Inania (1350-57), the madrasa el Seffarine, the oldest in the city (1280), the Madrasa el Attarine (1323-25) and the quarter of the dyers and the tanners|
|country||Morocco, Fes Province|
|location||Fez, east of Rabat and northeast of Meknes|
|meaning||the former Moroccan capital as a very important cultural and religious center|
Medina of Fez: history
|788/89||Foundation of the first city|
|808||Foundation of the so-called Upper Town|
|around 859||Construction of the Kairaouine Mosque|
|1067||Conquest by Almoravids|
|1135-44||New construction and extension of the Kairaouine Mosque|
|1145||Conquest by Almohads|
|1248||Conquest by Merinids|
|14th century||The city’s heyday with supposedly 785 mosques|
|1522||Destruction by earthquake|
|1548||Conquest by Saadites|
|May 21, 1911||Entry of French troops|
|March 30, 1912||Signing of the protection treaty with France|
|1912||Loss of importance due to the new capital Rabat|
|1989||Restoration of the medina begins|
Moon crater and painter’s palette, old town of Fez
When Charlemagne ascended the European imperial throne around 800, the “Islamic flood” had already broken north of the Pyrenees on the open flanks of the Franconian Empire. Despite the successful defense, the vast majority of the old Roman province of Hispania remained firmly in the hands of the Muslim “Moors”, mostly belonging to tribal associations of North African Berbers. Of course, even this Moorish Spain, which seemed so strange to medieval Europe and yet peculiarly respectful in administration and culture, was further removed from the original centers of Islamic culture than Charles Aachen Palatinate was from the Frankish border forts: an outpost, accessible only via the much navigated sea route from Gibraltar, part of the “mare nostrum” of the Romans, which had long since become an Arab sea.
The Moroccan Fez, from the Arab point of view the last major city in North Africa before the transition to the gloomy European continent, is by no means an ancient city. Its »Medina«, the historic old town, rather reflects the diverse early medieval influences of a turbulent region. The charm of his buildings, although repeatedly reshaped over the centuries, was able to combine the Byzantine-Islamic mixed style with Visigothic-Andalusian trace elements: an inheritance of the conquered Spanish territories. The flourishing artisan quarters developed those closely interlinked structures that today appear so picturesque and so “typically medieval” and yet are only an expression of economic life in the 9th century.
Located at the intersection of the traffic routes from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic, between Africa and Europe, and on the overlapping fringes of Islamic and Christian spheres of influence, the given location was ideally suited for the emergence of a flourishing trading city with a pronounced sense of multicultural coexistence. According to 800zipcodes, the status as the leading religious center of Morocco was the logical consequence. Depending on the vicissitudes of the advancing »Reconquista« on the Iberian Peninsula, Andalusian emigrants and returnees shaped the face of the city in an unmistakable way.
In the midst of an inextricably interwoven sea of houses, it is a unique sight. The famous quarter of tanners and dyers presents itself as a daring combination of bizarre moon craters with a provocatively colorful palette of painters. The city’s central historical line of business left its mark on the cityscape. And yet: only those who really have to work here today. While locals and tourists are given mint leaves to naturally perfume the badly battered nasal mucous membranes, young men stand up to their hips in the masonry paint tubs and beat textiles and freshly tanned skins with mere muscle power. The result is impressive, as is the method; an essential reason why this truly primeval procedure has survived the times despite the blessings of the industrial revolution. The less popular job in the dyeing liquor is an alternative to unemployment for the first third of life. Old town renovation: that means here among other things »living handicraft«.
The comfortable, striking yellow-colored leather slippers made in Fès are the result of a comparatively tame reaction of the midday sun and large amounts of saffron. Another »Oriental veteran«, unlike the »Russian eggs« or the popular »Hamburger« – both more or less denied in their supposed homeland – is traditional urban culture: the red conical felt hat, without a brim, but provided with the characteristic tassel for this, will always be associated with the textile achievements of the city. Because the “Fez”, the “Islamic beret”, loved and occasionally also outlawed, is the Muslim headgear par excellence in the consciousness of Europeans.