History buffs, rejoice! Morocco’s ancient al-Qarawiyyin library will soon be open to the public
Roof of the University of al-Qarawiyyin in Fez, Morocco, which is the oldest continually operating university in the world. (Shutterstock)
Since it first opened in the ninth century, scholars have traveled from around the world to peruse the books at al-Qarawiyyin, the world's oldest continually-operating library in Fez, Morocco. Until now, this library has been available only to researchers, but starting this fall, an exhibition room will open for the public to visit, Smithsonian magazine reports.
Founded in 859 by Fatima al-Fihri, the daughter of a wealthy merchant, al-Qarawiyyin boasts a rare collection of centuries-old texts, including the original 14th-century copy of the Muqaddima of Ibn Khaldun and a ninth-century copy of the Quran.
The library fell into disrepair over the centuries, and in 2012 the Moroccan Ministry of Culture approached the architect Chaouni about a restoration project.
In an interview with TED.com, Chaouni said he was shocked at the condition of the place. “In rooms containing precious manuscripts dating back to the 7th century, the temperature and moisture were uncontrolled, and there were cracks in the ceiling.”
Chaouni has since done a major overhaul on the building, installing systems to preserve the precious manuscripts and restoring the intricate tilework on the library's walls and floors.
The public wing of the library is expected to open after renovations finish in September.