Morocco: World’s Oldest Library Opens to Public

Morocco: World’s Oldest Library Opens to Public

Larbi Arbaoui
Morocco’s University of Al Qarawiyyin Llibrary

Taroudant – King Mohammed VI is expected to soon inaugurate the reopening of Morocco’s University of Al Qarawiyyin library in Fez, according to The National. The library is the world’s oldest library.

Founded 12 centuries ago by Fatima Al Fihri and nestled in the old medina of Fez, the library will open to the public for the first time in its history.

Fez native architect Aziza Chaouni, who specializes in restoring old buildings in a sustainable manner and is also a trained engineer with degrees from Harvard and Columbia, is leading the restoration of the old library.

According to the same source, Chaouni said she was pleasantly surprised when the Ministry of Culture approached her in 2012 to work on the project, despite having grown up in the city.

“I knew about the mosque, but never even knew there was a library there,” she said.

The architect is doing her best to convince those in charge to open an exhibit room to show the decades-old manuscripts.

The library is home to many rare manuscripts, which are kept in a secure room, “with strict temperature and humidity control.”

Morocco’s University of Al Qarawiyyin Llibrary

“The original manuscript room door had four locks,” library curator Abdelfattah Bougchouf said. “Each of those keys was kept with four different people. In order to open the manuscript room, all four of those people had to physically be there to open the door.”

The curator added that now “all of that has been replaced with a four-digit security code”.

According to Abdelhadi Tazi, PhD, in his doctoral proposal, Fatima Alfihri, known as Ummou Al Banin, meaning “mother of sons,” dedicated her wealth with the approval of the Idrissi king Yahya I to build the mosque for her community.

The mosque was later turned into a school to serve as a university hosting many world renowned thinkers and scientists.

The historic university of Fez is recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest degree-granting university in the world. Moreover, UNESCO considers Al-Karaouine to have been a university since its founding.

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