Al Quaraouiyine, The Oldest University in the World

Did you know that Fez was the capital of Morocco until 1912? Or that its medina is a labyrinth of about 10,000 alleys that are too narrow for cars?

While much has changed in Fez over time – as it has gone from imperial capital to be one of Morocco’s biggest cities-, much has also stayed the same. This city remains Morocco’s spiritual heart thanks to the strong ties it has with the religious schools and Islamic scholars.

Unlike bustling Marrakech, Fez still preserves much of the traditional culture that defined it. Making a trip here means taking a glimpse into how Morocco has changed over time.

Al Quaraouiyine Mosque and University. Fez

Photo: Al Quaraouiyine Mosque and University. Fez.


Fez is one of the most important cultural and spiritual centers from Morocco and home to the oldest university in the world, the University of Al Quaraouiyine, which was founded in 859 A.D. by Fatima al-Fihri.

Fez has a rich architectural heritage (you can see more about it here), and it is known for many historic buildings and monuments, like its ancient medina (old city) and the Bou Inania Madrasa, which is considered one of the most beautiful Islamic buildings in the world.

Fes is home to many traditional crafts and industries, including ceramics, leatherwork, and weaving, so you can explore the many markets and souks (bazaars) that offer a wide range of traditional Moroccan products. If you are more likely on music, this city has some vibrant music and dance traditions that you can experience by attending a performance of Gnawa music or watching a traditional belly dance.

Fez offers a unique and unforgettable travel experience

Besides the cultural and historical importance, Fez is also a good choice for those who are interested in exploring Morocco’s natural beauty. As it is placed at the foot of the Atlas Mountains, you can take a day trip to explore the stunning landscapes and scenery of the surrounding region. Hiking and trekking may be some good options, while the Oued Fez River provides a serene setting for picnics and leisurely walks.

Al Quaraouiyine mosque. Fez
Al Quaraouiyine mosque. Fez


When talking about the oldest universities in the world, probably the first ones that comes to your mind are Oxford and Bologna, but according to UNESCO and the Guinness World Records, Al-Qarawiyyin University (also known as Al-Karaouine) is considered the “oldest existing, and continually operating educational institution in the world.”

According to Masters Avenue, these are the oldest 10 universities in the world:

Al Quaraouiyine mosque. Fez


The University of Al Quaraouiyine has a long history. It was founded by Fatima al-Fihri, borned in Tunisia in the late 8th century. She moved to Fez with her family and she decided to establish a center of learning for the Muslim community.

Originally founded as a mosque, with a mosque school (madrasa) to provide a place for the community to practice the religious rituals, this place soon developed other functions. It was used as a place of religious instruction and Quran memorization, Arabic grammar, music, mathematics, chemistry, Islamic legislation, medicines, astronomy, and to study political debate or natural sciences.

One of the most important contributions of the University of Al Quaraouiyine was its role in preserving and transmitting the knowledge of the ancient world to future generations.

If you ever wondered what is the oldest university in the world, we have the answer: it´s the University of Al Quaraouiyine from Fez

The students who studied or taught at this university made significant contributions to fields such as Islamic law, theology, and philosophy, and their ideas and insights continue to influence Islamic scholarship to this day.

The university houses a museum that showcases its rich history and heritage, so it attracts tourists from all over the world who are interested to learn about the Islamic intellectual tradition and about the contributions of this university. Immerse yourself in the charm and history of this place and enjoy everything you can learn here!

University of Al Quaraouiyine. Fez

The University of Fez in Morocco

The University of Fez (Al Quaraouiyine) has a wide range of subjects, from traditional Islamic sciences to modern disciplines such as engineering and computer science.

The university’s faculty includes scholars and experts in traditional Moroccan arts and crafts, such as calligraphy, ceramics, and embroidery. If you make a visit here, you have the chance to take classes in these disciplines or purchase some handmade goods from local artisans.

University of Al Quaraouiyine´s library is one of the most extensive in the Islamic world, housing over 30,000 manuscripts

Nowadays, the oldest university offers courses in a wide range of subjects, including engineering, medicine, and social sciences. It has several faculties and institutes, each specializing in a particular field of study.


Fatima al-Fihri used her family’s wealth to build a mosque and a madrasa (a school for religious studies) in Fez. This madrasa later became the University of Al Quaraouiyine.

She was born in Kairouan – in present-day Tunisia -, and her family moved to Fez. It seems that she came from a wealthy family of merchants and that she and her sister inherited a large fortune from their father.

Fatima is said to have been highly educated herself, and she recognized the importance of education in Islam. She dedicated her entire inheritance to the establishment of the University from Fez so people could come and study Islamic knowledge and sciences.

Fatima al-Fihri is a model for Muslim women and a symbol of the importance of education in Islamic culture

Find the Oldest Library in Fez Too

The library from Al-Qarawiyyine is an essential part of both religious and scholarly reasons. This library is the oldest in the world. It has over 4000 manuscripts in Arabic, Hebrew, and Latin, many of which were translations of classical Greek and Roman works, and some of those manuscripts are from the 9th century.

One of its most important treasures is a collection of hadiths considered the oldest copy of the Prophet Mohammed’s sayings that still exist.


Fez is one of those cities that gives you something to discover in every corner. As home to the oldest university, it has played a significant role in shaping Islamic scholarship and intellectual tradition over the centuries, and it continues to be a center of learning and scholarship today.

Fes gives you a unique and unforgettable travel experience, with its rich architectural heritage, vibrant arts and culture, and with its stunning natural beauty. This city is a destination that should be on every traveler’s bucket list. Note it down as your next destination or book your tickets with us.

Old library

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