Fes, Morocco

Fes or Fez (Arabic: فاس [Fās], French Fès) is the fourth largest city in Morocco, after Casablanca, Rabat and Marrakech with a population of 946,815 (2004 census). It is the capital of the Fès-Boulemane Region.

Fes is one of the four so-called "imperial cities" (the others are Marrakech, Meknes and Rabat). It is separated into three parts, Fes el Bali (the old, walled city), Fes-Jdid (new Fes, home of the Mellah), and the Ville Nouvelle (the French-created, newest section of Fes). The Medina of Fes el Bali, the largest of the two medinas of Fes, is believed to be the largest contiguous car-free urban area in the world. Fes el Bali is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The University of Al-Karaouine was founded in 859 A.D. and is the oldest continuous operating university in the world.


The city was founded on opposite banks of the Fez River by Idris I in 789 and his son Idris II continued the work in 810. The first was the founder of the Idrisid dynasty, his son was born after he was assassinated. During Yahya ibn Muhammad's rule the Kairouyine mosque, one of the oldest and largest in Africa, was built, and the associated University of Al-Karaouine was founded in 859. Arab emigration to Fes, mostly from Al-Andalus after a rebellion which took place in Córdoba in 818 and from Tunisia after another rebellion that took place in 824, gave the city a definite Arab character. 'Adwat Al-Andalus and 'Adwat al-Qarawiyyin, the two main quarters of Fes, were called respectively after the two waves of Arab immigrants to the new city. After Ali ibn Umar (Ali II) came to power, the tribes of Madyuna, Gayatha and Miknasa, which were Sufrite Kharijites, formed a common front against the Idrisid and defeated Ali's armies and occupied Fes. Yahya ibn Al-Qassim, drove the Sufrites out of the city and declared himself Ali's successor.

The city was populated by Muslims from elsewhere in North Africa, the Middle East, Moriscos, as well as many Jews, who had their own quarter, or Mellah, in the city.

Almohad dynasty (1130-1269)

  • It is believed that Fes was the largest city in the world from 1170 to 1180.

Fes became the scientific and religious center, where both Muslims and Christians from Europe came to study.

Marinid dynasty (1269-1420)
Kingdom of Fez (1420-1554)

Saadi dynasty (1554-1603)

  • Partition

Capital of Saadi Kingdom of Fez (1603-1627)

Later became part of Saadi Dynasty (1627-1649)

Fes became the center of the Morocco in 1649, and it was a major trading post of the Barbary Coast of North Africa. Until the 19th century it was the only source of Fez hats (also known as the tarboosh), before they began to be manufactured in France and Turkey; originally, the dye for the hats came from a berry that was grown outside the city, known as the Turkish kizziljiek or Greek akenia (Cornus mascula). Fes was also the end of a north-south gold trading route from Timbuktu.

Independent in 1790–1795 leader Yazid (1790-1792) and Abu´r-Rabi Sulayman (1792-1795). This Kingdom was conquest by Morocco.

In 1819–1821 was part of the rebellion which leader was Ibrahim ibn Yazid. In 1832 rebellion , leader Muhammad ibn Tayyib.

Fez was a prime manufacturing location for leather goods such as the Adarga.

Fes was the capital of Morocco at various times in the past, the last such period ending in 1912, when most of Morocco came under French control and Rabat was chosen to be the capital of the new colony, a distinction that city retained when Morocco achieved independence in 1956. While many of the original inhabitants of Fes have since emigrated, the Jewish quarter has been emptied of its Jewish population (In 1465, there was large massacre of Jews by Arab riots. ), and the economy has stagnated, Fes is perhaps the most interesting and picturesque of the Imperial Cities of Morocco. Despite the traditional character of most of the city, there is also a modern section, the Ville Nouvelle, or "New City", which is a bustling commercial center. The popularity of the city has increased since the King of Morocco took a Fassi computer engineer, Salma Bennani, as his wife.


Fes is becoming an increasingly popular tourist destination and many non-Moroccans are now restoring traditional houses (riads and dars) as second homes in the Fes medina. The most important monuments in the city are:

Fes World Sacred Music Festival

In the city every year a week-long festival is held of sacred musical traditions from different parts of the world. Performers like Ravi Shankar, Youssou N'Dour and Salif Keita are juxtaposed with less known musical genres such as Japanese Gagaku, Indonesian Gamelan and folk music from Central Asia. The 2007 festival has a new Artistic Director Cherif Khaznadar bringing a new perspective to the programme. The festival was founded in 1994 by the Moroccan scholar and philanthropist Faouzi Skali. It includes a four-day Forum under the rubric "Giving Soul to Globalisation". Politicians, social activists, academics and religious leaders come together in dialogue. This Forum is sponsored by the World Bank.


The city is served by Saïss Airport. It also has an ONCF train station which goes east to Oujda and west to Tanger and Casablanca

Town twinning

Sister cities


See also

  • Treaty of Fez
  • Book by Roger Le Tourneau (English translation by Besse Clement), Fez in the Age of the Marinides, Oklahoma University, editions 1961 and 1974 (latter ISBN 0806111984).

External links

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