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.
The Mosque of al-Qarawiyyin, near the Suq al-'Attarin, or Spice Market of Fez al-Bali, is one of the world's oldest universities, and among the largest mosques in Africa. Founded as a private oratory in 857/242 AH by Fatima al-Fahri, the daughter of a wealthy Qayrawani immigrant, in the tenth century the mosque became the congregational mosque of the quarter of al-Qarawiyyin. The mosque is surrounded by madrasas, and was a major intellectual center in the medieval Mediterranean. Its prestigious academic reputation may have transcended religious divisions, if, as a popular tradition suggests, Gerbert of Auvergne (930-1003), who would become Pope Sylvester II and who is credited with introducing the use of zero and Arabic numerals to Europe, was once a student at al-Qarawiyyin.
Fez was intimately linked to Islamic Spain politically, economically, and culturally - particularly after 1492/897 AH when Ferdinand and Isabel's expulsion of Muslims and Jews from the Iberian Peninsula brought an influx of refugees into the city. Visual references to the religious and palatine architecture of Islamic Spain are evident in the mosque's hypostyle plan, the 10th century square stone minaret (commissioned and funded by 'Abd al-Rahman III, the first Umayyad caliph of al-Andalus), and by the carved stucco, wood, and glazed tile (zilij) ornamental style derived from the Alhambra. However, al-Qarawiyyin's T-shaped plan, created by an elevated central aisle perpendicular to an aisle fronting the qibla wall, belongs to North African mosque tradition. Stuccoed brick, with stone and tile revetment, and carved cedar wood are the primary materials used for the structure and ornament of the mosque proper.
The Almoravid ruler, Sultan 'Ali ben Yusuf expanded the mosque to its present size between 1134 and 1143. The courtyard's blue and white tile floor, marble ablutions fountain, and the two fountain pavilions, which recall the Court of the Lions at the Alhambra, were added by the Sa'did Sultan 'Abdallah ibn al-Shaikh (r. 1606-1623/1014-1032 AH).
There have been two efforts to rehabilitate the site in the 20th century. The first was completed in 2007, the second 10 years later by Aziza Chaouni.
Hillenbrand, Robert. Islamic Architecture. NY: Columbia UP, 1994. 240-251.