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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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 Jewish community of Fez is the oldest and largest in Morocco, dating back to the establishment of the city by the Idrisid dynasty. It grew through immigration after successive waves of expulsion from the Iberian Peninsula. In the 15th/9th AH century the Maranid dynasty established the quarter known as the Mallah or Mellah, moving the Jewish community closer to the palace. The quarter remains bounded to the north by the Royal Palace, a placement that tied the interests of the community to the monarchy, and affirmed the Sultan's role as protector of community.
In addition to being a residential neighborhood, the quarter was an artisanal, commercial, and financial center. The northern part of quarter on the surroundings of the Bulakhsissat, was the wealthier, populated mostly by immigrants from the Iberian Peninsula. These dwellings were luxurious and elaborately decorated. The neighborhood south of the La Grande Rue is poorer and housed native Jews and included smaller commercial establishments, as well as less luxurious housing.
Sources: Ilahiane, Hsain. "Spanish Balconies in Morocco: A Window on Cultural Influence in the Mallah (Jewish) Community," In Charting Memory: Recalling Medieval Spain, ed. Stacy N. Beckwith, 171-193. New York and London: Garland Publishing, Inc., 2000.
Mezzine, Mohamed. "A Day in the Life of a Jew in Fez." In Andalusian Morocco: Discovery in Living Art. np: Museum With No Frontiers, 2001.