Culture and History
The name ‘Fez’ means a pickaxe. Legend says that a gold and silver pickaxe was thrown from heavens to the first ruler of Fez, Idris I to mark the outline of the first township in 789 AD. Idris, I was the great-grandson of Ali bin Abi Talib (RA) and Fatima, daughter of our beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW). Idris fled Damascus in 786 AD, from the rival Abasiyyid Empire, ambitious to settle and construct a new Muslim empire in Morocco. His seat of authority was in Fez. While he laid the foundations of Fez Al-Aliya, his son laid foundations of the township north of the Jawhar River called Fez Al-Bala. Both of the townships were independent of each other and walls were built to separate the two. Arab immigration to Fez began early on, as rival Arab families to the Moors in Andalusia and Fatimids in Tunisia were banished and resettled here. The Idrisid Fez, is not well known about its history, as most of its establishments perished in the invasions from the east, by Tunisian Fatimid Caliphate and from the north by the Emirate of Cordoba, each tried to install, an emissary on the township to work on their behalf. The successor of Idris II built the Al – Kurray’ain Mosque and Madrasa in Fez which still stands today. It is regarded as the oldest continuously serving university in the world, and it’s now called the University (Jamiyah)of Al- Kurray’ain. The Andalusian Emir finally won Fez and beautified the Kurray’ain Mosque and adjacent madrassa in typical Andalusian architecture as seen today. In the year 1077, the Almoravid ruler Youssef bin Tashfin conquered Fez, and thus began the golden age that lasted for almost 400 years.
Under the Almoravids, the walls between the two townships were destroyed, and the city was made whole. Fez acquired the important status of being a hub of trade and learning. The Almoravid ruler Youssef bin Tashfin is considered the second founder of the city of Fez.
Like many Moroccan cities at the time, Fez also grew substantially in the era of the Almohads. The city was widened and new walls were built to protect the city from invasion. The city grew so rapidly and successfully that Fez was the most populated city between 1170 and 1180 in the entire world, home to more than 200,000 people from a myriad of ethnic backgrounds.
The Marinid Dynasty made Fez its capital again in 1250. Most of the intellectual history of Fez stems out of the drive of the Marinids to make Fez a city of scholars, scientists and philosophers.
In 1558, the Ottoman Empire with the support of the local Wattasids tried to overthrow the Saadian Sultans of Morocco, but their efforts were in vain. This Morocco is the only Arab country that was not ruled over by the Ottoman Empire. In 1790 the city became independent but only briefly. Riots broke out in 1912 as a reaction to the Treaty of Fez.