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.
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The Qasbah Filala mosque is located within the ramparts of Qasbah Filala, situated east of Qasbah Bu Jallud, northwest of Fez al-Bali, along the road linking leading from Bab Mahrouk and the exterior of the medina into Fez al-Bali. It was built by the Almohad ruler Mohammed en-Nasir, who also built Bab Mahrouk. Its current name, however, is attributed to the people of the Tafilalet, the Filalas, or Alawis. The Qasbah itself (and presumably its mosque) was originally an eleventh-century Almoravid rampart with a rectangular plan. Its southwest angle is oriented toward Fez Jedid, its eastern wall to the path, and its south end to the upper end of the Tal'a Kbira road. Bab Filala is found to the southwest of the ramparts, in close proximity to the gate of the fortifications of Fez al-Bali, Bab Mahrouk, and the inner medina, the Tal'a. The Qasbah is easily recognizable, with its hexagonal towers flanking the main entrance along the Bab Mahrouk - Fez al-Bali path. Its walls are elevated and surmounted by merlons; the minaret of the mosque is visible beyond the Qasbah walls.
Qasbah Filala had a different political system from that of the neighboring quarters, and its access was limited to those who lived within its walls. Non-Muslims, including Jews and Europeans, were forbidden entry. As the only mosque in the neighborhood, the mosque was a congregational mosque.
The mosque dominates a small rectangular-shaped square, the Square of the Mosque (Ous'at Bab el-Jama'). The mosque and the square are located in the southwest of the ramparts, and are accessible from the city through the main Qasbah gate, Bab Filala. Dominating the square in its southern corner, the mosque's two entrances are on the north of the complex, with the main gateway next to the minaret, and a smaller entryway at the southeast corner of the square.
The plan of the mosque is a square, approximately 18 meters long on each side. The sparsely decorated minaret is adjacent to the main gate in the center of the northern wall. The main entryway to the mosque, the one adjacent to the minaret, is a brick horseshoe arched gate, covered with stucco, with scalloped decoration around the archway. The secondary entry along the same wall is similarly decorated but is more ornate than the first. The entryway is topped with a wooden sculpted awning and crowned with a pyramidal roof covered with green tiles. Above the archway is a mashrabiyya stucco screen, with six or seven blind arched windows made of plaster and decorated with various abstract motifs.
The minaret is typical of minarets in the North African region: it is square in plan, though devoid of any ornamentation, and its walls are whitewashed. The minaret is two-tiered, with a window on each of its walls. Its north-facing wall is flush with the mosque wall, and therefore is part of the exterior of the mosque.
The second entrance to the mosque is in need of restoration work. The exterior stucco has peeled off partially on its upper west side, revealing a brick wall construction beneath the blind mashrabiyya screen. More recent information about the mosque is not available, and it is unclear whether a restoration of the mosque has been implemented.
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Métalsi, Muhammad. 2003. Fès: La Ville Essentielle. Courbevoie: ACR Edition, 297-299.
Le Tourneau, Roger. c1949. Fès Avant le Protectorat. Casablanca: Publications de l'Institut des Hautes Etudes Marocaines. 84, 107, 586.
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