This is the place where Fez was founded by the Idrisids in 789. Actually they had founded 2 towns on the opposite sides of oued: Fez by Idris I and Al-Aliya 20 years later by his son Idris II. In 1070 the Almoravids had decided to unite settlements – fortified walls between cities were demolished and the bridges over oued were erected.
In 12th century the population of Fez had reached 200 000 people, so the Almohads started rebuilding of old walls – to give more space to the city. The reconstruction was finished by the Marinids in 13th century. These walls surround Fes el-Bali today.
Nowadays the old medina of Fez is recognized as the largest car-free zone in the world and the best preserved Arab-Muslim historical city also in the world. In 1981 Fes el-Bali was listed by UNESCO among world heritage.
Some interesting sights are hidden in the maze of Old Fez. The labyrinth itself can play a role of the amusing place too. Any GPS navigation is almost impossible in Fes el-Bali. About the ideas how to walk in medina without GPS you may read here. You may choose rue Talaa Sghira (that starts from Bab Boujeloud) as the widest street in the western part of Fes el-Bali. Article about new medina, Fes el-Jdid is here.
(also Al-Qaraouiyine or Al-Karaouine)
GPS coordinates: 34°03’53.7″N 4°58’24.4″W (34.064928, -4.973438)
It is the biggest madrasa in Africa combined with the mosque. Al-Qarawiyyin was founded in 859 by Fatima Al-Fihri (the emigrant from Tunisia). In 12th century the Almoravids enlarged the mosque (up to the capacity of 22 000 people) and restored madrasa.
In 1947 alumni of Al-Qaraouiyine began to receive diplomas – madrasa was on the way to integration into the state educational system. Only in 1963 madrasa was transformed into a university.
The education is focused on law and theology. The library of Al-Qarawiyyin is hiding many treasures like Quran of 9th century and more than 4000 manuscripts. The university is open to both, men and women. But the entrance for non-Muslims is prohibited.
Other sights of Fes el-Bali you will find listed here.
Take Fez map with you – just click the star and it will be saved in your Google account. Any locations in this region that I will add later will appear on your map.
Fes el-Bali is marked by red polygon: