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.
Since 859 AD, when construction commenced, and especially since the twelfth-century expansions under the Almoravid dynasty, the Al-Qaraouiyine mosque has been a vital presence at the heart of the medina of Fez, not only as a place of worship but as one of the world’s oldest universities. The aim of the rehabilitation project was not only to preserve the historic fabric of the mosque but also to revive its cultural and social role in the life of the citizens of Fez and to enhance its use as a place of worship and a place of learning. The rehabilitation team, relying entirely on Moroccan experts and professionals, adopted a holistic and multi-disciplinary approach in the project. Their strategy involved the critical examination of the haphazard interventions of the past 60 years and rigorous documentation work. New technologies were employed to reverse the process of slow degradation that was undermining the structure’s physical integrity, and previous inappropriate interventions were removed where feasible. The work was completed in such a way as to not interfere with the daily use of the mosque by worshippers. Al-Qaraouiyine’s academic role has also been broadened after the completion of the rehabilitation project, and it has once again started accepting female students for courses of study.