It’s a bibliophile’s dearest dream. The world’s oldest library, located at al-Qarawiyyin University in Fez, Morocco has reopened after an extensive renovation. For any historically minded traveler, this is the big leagues, folks. It’s the grand cathedral of books.
Founded in 895 by a wealthy woman named Fatima El-Fihriya, the library was intended to be a center for both knowledge and religious study. For more than a thousand years, the library was a world center of cultural and spiritual knowledge, continuing to operate until the 21st century, when disrepair sank into the library. According to the Huffington Post, “Cracks in the walls, unregulated humidity, and even infiltrating sewage were threatening to ruin the ancient collection of texts, which addressed everything from law to astronomy, dating back as far as the 7th century.”
Years ago, though, architect Aziza Chaouni was hired to resuscitate the old building, breathing new life into the esteemed architectural landmark. After years and years of delicate work, Chaouni’s labor is about to yield fruit as the library has been restored to its 9th century prime and each of its manuscripts have been lovingly retouched. What’s more, Chaouni has included new furniture and solar panels in order to make the new facility usable for modern day researchers.
There’s always a good reason to visit the bustling streets of Fez, Morocco, but with the newly reopened library at al-Qarawiyyin University, there’s another great reason to make the trip.