The Oldest Library in the World, Restored

Harvard graduate Aziza Chaouni is accomplishing some remarkable things in Fez Morocco. After restoring the Fez River, which was crucial to the survival of the city, Aziza began working on another important project: restoring the oldest library in the world.

The name of the library is al-Qarawiyyin and it has been in operation since the 9th century. The original founder was a woman named Fatima al Fihira. Both of these woman, Fatima and Aziza, have done great work in the preservation and continuation of ancient knowledge.


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In Aziza’s recent interview with Book Riot, she said the library has a “magical aura.” The kind of feeling you get when you are surrounded by mystery and wonder. Imagine being surrounded by ancient texts written a thousand years ago. What kind of mysteries are in those books? Unfortunately the public will not know until restoration on the library is complete.

The library has had a rough history and is still in danger today. During the 13th century Mongols were invading Baghdad, destroying everything in their path. If al-Qarawiyyin was discovered it surely would have been destroyed. Today the library faces a similar threat, instead this time it is from Islamic terrorist groups in the region.

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Terrorists in the region have been burning ancient manuscripts after their invasion of Mosul, a story very similar to The Bad-Ass Librarians of Timbuktu (listen to our podcast about the book here). Some of the most well preserved artifacts from antiquity have been ruthlessly bulldozed and destroyed. This is what makes Aziza’s work so important; so much ancient history is destroyed in war and we must find ways to preserve what’s left.

Unfortunately, the less intellectual history there is, the easier it is for certain politicians to label Islam as a religion of hate. Not only is Aziza preserving knowledge and wisdom, but she is also defending an entire culture from the ravages of war and greed. 


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