Mosque of al-Qarawiyyin

Al-Qarawiyin Mosque is in the center of the old city of Fez. It was founded 857 by Fatima Bent Cheikh Faqih Abi Abdellah Mohammed Bin Abdellah Al Fihri Al Kayrawani, or Fatima Um Al banin, the daughter of a wealthy family from Kairouan. She had gone to Fez along with many thousand others from that city, and gave all her inheritance for the constrution of a mosque. As the Kairouani population in Fez grew, the mosque was expanded till it had a capacity of thousands of worshippers. It was first called “Kairouaniyyin” indicating its congregation and in time changed to Qarawiyin. In the tenth century it became the city’s congregational mosque

Al Qarawiyin is the largest mosque in Africa, and along with
Al-Azhar in Cairo, one of the world's oldest universities. Scholars came from all over Morocco, Andalusia and North Africa, among them Ibn Khaldun. Scholars from Christian Europe also came to study at the university. The Quran was taught as well as grammar, rhetoric, logic, medicine, mathematics, astronomy. Today it is still a university teaching secular and religious classes.

Because of its importance as a center of learning, each ruler and dynasty from the Almohads to the Almoravids to the Marinids wanted to leave their mark on the institution. Sundials were added, sand dials, mihrabs and maqsuras, a library. All these additions were done with fine artistry in stucco, wood and glazed tile. The mosque is an architectural mix of various traditions: the minaret is the first square stone minaret in Islamic North Africa. The mosque was expanded and restored many times, in the 10th, 12th and 17th centuries. The Almoravid dynasty excelled in architectural ornamentation, inscriptions in stone, dome and vault construction. The minbar (pulpit), which came form Cordoba, is still existing today; it is of carved wood and is considered a beautiful example of Andalusian art.

Al Qarawiyin has 21 aisles that run perpendicular to the qibla. The original plan was T-shaped, which was the North African style. The courtyard has a blue and white tile floor and two fountain pavilions each with a marble ablution fountain similar to those in Granada’s Court of the Lions. The roof is covered in green tile.