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Fez is a beautiful city surrounded by hills. It is made up of the
walled medina, Fez el-Bali, Fez el-Jdid (1276) and the Ville
Nouvelle, the new city that was built by the French. It is the third
largest city in Morocco, after Casablanca and Rabat. It has a
population of 946,815. Along with
Meknes and Rabat, it is one of the four "imperial cities" of
Fez reached its golden age in the 13th–14th centuries under the
Marinids, when it replaced Marrakesh as the capital of the kingdom.
The principal monuments in the medina, the residences and public
buildings, date from this period.
Fez was founded by Idriss II in 809 on a site selected by his
father, Idriss I. The city developed into a cultural center and a
learning center with the growth of the Idrissi dynasty. It is the
spiritual and cultural center of Morocco.
In Fez el- Bali there are two distinctly different districts. In
818, many hundred Moslem families fled the Spanish Inquisition in
Andalusia and settled the right bank of Wadi Fez. Seven years later,
300 families from Qairouan established their homes on the opposite
bank. The Andalusian Arabs brought with them art and the experience
of the civilization of Muslim Spain. The refined building style is
clear to see in the Andalusian quarter. The Andalus Mosque, built in
859, and the palaces have sculpted and carved woodwork, engraved
bronze, musharrabiyas (carved lattice work screen used on windows)
columns and sculpted plasterwork. Marble or onyx was used to pave
the courtyards of public buildings.
Fez was the Arab capital to the Idrissis, and a center for religion
and learning with the establishment of the
Qarawiyyin Mosque and madrasa in 810. Muslim and Christian
scholars from all regions came to study at its university, which was
the best place for learning till the establishment in Cairo of al-Azhar
With the fall of the Idrissi dynasty in the mid-tenth century, a
battle was fought by the Fatimids of Tunis and the Umayyads of
Cordoba over the control of Fez. Each time the city changed hands,
walls and fortifications were built.
Almurabitun who came from Berber tribes from the desert, took the
opportunity to capture Fez when the Umayyad dynasty in the Andalus
fell. By 1106 Almurabitun controlled the Andalus as well as Morocco.
Forty years later Fez was conquered by the Almuwahhidun in 1146.
In 1250 the Marinids captured Fez from the Almuwahhidun. Sultan
Adbel Youssef Yacoub established Fez el-Jdid and made it the
administrative center for the Marinids. Unlike their predecessors,
the Marinids turned their attention to Morocco rather than the
Andalus, and Fez reached its height in the 13th and 14th centuries.
In Fez el-Bali near the Bou’Inania madrasa, is the Dar-Batha museum.
It houses the finest ceramic collection in Morocco, showing the art
and techniques of Fez craftsmen. The famous "Fez blue" generally
serves as a background, decorated with geometrical or stylized
The shrine and mausoleum of Moulay Idris II, built in the 14th
century, are a pilgrimage destination and a site for civic ceremony
The 14th century Arab traveler Ibn Battuta is buried in Fez.
The Medina of Fez was inscribed a UNESCO World Heritage Site, 1981
based on the following UNESCO criteria:
• to exhibit an important interchange
of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of
the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental
arts, town-planning or landscape design;
• to be an outstanding example of a
traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is
representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with
the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the
impact of irreversible change.