Architect restores ancient Arab library

This April 14, 2016, photo, shows the fountain for abolutions before prayers is pictured in the Al-Qarawiyyin mosque is pictured in Fez, Morocco. Founded 12 centuries ago by a pioneering woman, the al-Qarawiyyin library is wrapping up a careful restoration project and King Mohamed VI is expected to preside over the reopening. But authorities haven't decided whether the public will be able to view its treasured Islamic manuscripts, or whether that privilege will be limited to university researchers. (AP Photo/Samia Errazouki)

One of the ancient seats of learning of the Arabic world is currently undergoing a facelift.

Founded 12 centuries ago by a pioneering woman in the old medina of Fez, Morocco’s University of al-Qarawiyyin library is one of the world’s oldest, home to unique Islamic manuscripts.

Hidden from the public, even the architect leading its restoration, Fez native Aziza Chaouni, didn’t even know it existed until she was asked to work on it.

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Chaouni wants to open the building to the public for the first time in its history as until now, the privilege of using it has been limited to scholars who seek formal permission.

The library houses a collection of manuscripts written by renowned thinkers from the region.

These include Ibn Khaldun’s “Muqadimmah” a 14th century historical work which spent six months on loan to the Louvre Museum in Paris during the renovations, library curator Abdelfattah Bougchouf said.

Other texts include a 9th-century Quran written in Kufic calligraphy.

The manuscripts are now kept in a secure room, with strict temperature and humidity controls.

 

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