Sunday, December 08, 2013

Two Moroccan libraries, Al-Karaouine Library (Fes, 889) and The Mohommed VI Library (Al-Akhawayn Univ., Ifrane, 1995)

2013.05.28-IMG_3297The University of al-Karaouine in Fes, Morocco is one of the oldest schools of higher education in the world. Started in roughtly 859, the university is associated with the mosque and has had a number of famous scholars through the years (e.g. Maimonides, Leo Africanus). But we're hear to talk about its library.

Located a few "blocks" (not that this term means anything in terms of the medieval streets of Old Fes) from university is the Al-Karaouine Library. I was fortunate to get to peek inside the doors of the library. There amidst the manuscripts, manuscript card catalog, and marvelous tile floor, was a site not too often seen these days, the library cat. Comfortably curled into a chair in the reading room, s/he didn't seem too upset by my visit.

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In stark contrast to the ancient university of al-Karaouine is the Al-Akhawayn University in Ifrane, an almost two hour ride from Fes. Al-Akhawayn University ("The Two Brothers") is a modern university (founded in only 1995 -- over 1,000 years (!) after al_Karouine) located in the Atlas Mountains. With an architecture that looks more like a Swiss village than an Berber village, the university as up-to-date as one would want. Likewise, the library (The Mohommed VI Library, cat-less sadly) is nearly indistinguishable from any typical university library in the world.

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