The city of Fez is located in northern Morocco at the axes of two main communication routes that connected the Atlantic to the central Magrib and the Straights of Gibraltar to the Africa. Fez was probably founded in the late eighth-century by the Idrisids, eventually developing through the merging of two separate cities on opposite banks of the Wadi Fez river. The two cities spent almost a century under the rule of the Umayyads of al-Andalus, before a succession of Berber dynasties conquered it. The Almoravid conquest of the city in the late eleventh-century was a pivotal moment, when the previously autonomous cities were united into one, spurring new development in the form of a fortress, new urban quarters, and water infrastructure. Upon the Almohad conquest of the city in 1145 the form of the city was changed again - the Almohads razed much of the Almoravid fortifications before constructing new walls and gates in the thirteenth-century, which to a large degree have survived.
Conquered again in the thirteenth-century by the Marinids, Fez became the capital city of the dynasty. Always second in importance to Marrakech, which had been the capital of both the Almoravids and Almohads, Fez developed into a major intellectual and commercial center under the Marinids. Beginning in 674/1276 the Marinids constructed Fes al-Jadid ("New Fes"), a new administrative citadel surrounded by a double wall, west of the old walled city, which then was known as Fes al-Bali ("Ancient Fes"). The Marinids embellished their populous capital with the numerous madrasas for which it is famous and constructed estates in the countryside around the city.
Fez remained under Marinid rule until it was conquered by the Sa'di dynasty in the sixteenth-century, and then again by the 'Alawi dynasty in 1666. In the late nineteenth-century Fes al-Jadid and Fes al-Bali were united with new walls.
"Fas." In Encyclopedia of Islam. 2nd ed. Leiden: Brill.
Le Tourneau, Roger. Fez in the age of the Marinides. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. c. 1961.
Le Tourneau, Roger. Fes avant le protectorat : etude economique et sociale d'une ville de l'occident musulman. Rabat : Editions La Porte. 1987
Revault, J., L. Golvin and A. Amahane. 1985-89. Les Palais et demeures de Fes. 2 vols Paris. 1985-1989.
"This side-trip to Fez was made for the express purpose of recording the fjer, to which I used to listen regularly each morning during the four or five months of each year that I lived here. Since there have been so many changes in custom and observance during the past half-decade in Morocco, I inquired on my arrival this time whether the fjer was still done as before. I was told that it was, but knowing that very few Fassiyine, even if they are awake at half past four in the morning, are really aware of the sound, (or, if they were disposed to listen to it, find themselves in a spot so geographically situated that they can hear several mosques simultaneously) I accepted the information cum grano salis.
I was right to be skeptical. The night of the 9th-10th, I set my alarm-clock for five, awakened and heard nothing but a few scattered phrases of the familiar "Allah akbar!" which is not chanted but shouted. The following night, which was a Thursday night, I set the clock for four, being mindful of the fact that in the past the longest and most interesting chanted sequences from the minarets had generally taken place on Friday mornings, (Friday being the Sabbath). I arose, heard the same things as the previous morning, recorded it anyway for three quarters of an hour, and gave up in disgust when no chanting proved to be forthcoming. Then, as I was preparing to go back to bed, I heard the muezzin of the Qarouiyine Mosque, and he was chanting. As quickly as I could I began to record. There was a strong wind coming up. It rattled the palms outside the window and occasionally hit the microphone. The sequence of sound in 56A is divisible into three sections: chanted phrases which are more or less regularly repeated, with periods of silence between them, then the call to prayer, which is followed by a resumption of the chanting by several muezzins in various mosques. Toward the close of the reel there are nearby noises in the courtyards of the houses below. (Acoustically the Palais Jamai, where I made the recording, is strategically placed: it is within the walls of the Medina, but on a hill which commands an unimpeded view of most of the minarets.) The Palais Jamai is just inside the ramparts at Bab Jamai; the space outside the walls between Bab Jamai and Bab el Guissa is always crowded with trucks and buses. Many of the latter customarily start out for other cities at the hour of the fjer. Their sound is almost constantly audible as they climb up and down the mountain behind Fez."
The Paul Bowles Moroccan Music Collection (AFC 1960/001), American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C., Courtesy of the Paul Bowles Estate and Irene Hermann / Tangier American Legation Institute for Moroccan Studies.