Mohammed Fikri Benabdallah graduated from the Ecole Supérieure des Beaux-Arts de Paris in 1980. Upon returning for Morocco, he joined the architecture division at the Ministry of Urban Planning in Rabat in 1981, supervising a major architectural research program for about a decade. In 1985, he was elected Secretary General of the Association Nationale des Architectes et Urbanistes, and in 1992 he joined the Conseil Supérieur de l’Ordre des Architectes. He is also a founding member of the Comité directeur du Forum des Architectes. Between 1985 and 2002, he taught at the Ecole Nationale d’Architecture de Rabat.
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.