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Saturday, February 18, 2017

Another Literary Destination: the World's Oldest Library

For your next vacation, why not visit the oldest library in the world?

The al-Qarawiyyin Library in Fez, in northeastern Morocco, was founded in the year 859.  Until recently, it was reserved for academics and theologians, but following an extensive renovation, the library opened its doors to the public this past summer. 

The al-Qarawiyyin library was founded by a woman.  Fatima al-Fihri, the daughter of a wealthy merchant from Tunisia, arrived in Fez in the ninth century and began laying the groundwork for a complex that included the library.  Inside were kept many prized tomes, works of such immense import that the iron door leading to the library had four locks; each of the four locks had separate keys held by four different individuals, all of whom had to be present for the door to be opened.  The library now houses 4,000 rare texts and ancient manuscripts; among its most valuable texts is a ninth-century copy of the Qur’an written in ornate Kufic script on camel skin.

The library had several small additions and renovations over its millennium-long existence, but it has now been totally restored by a Canadian-Moroccan architect, Aziza Chaouni.