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Medina of Fez the 1st Morocco’s World Heritage City of UNESCO


© OMAR CHENNAFI


A few of Morocco’s World Heritage Sites are made up of medinas – the old walled North African cities with a maze of narrow streets.

One of the largest and oldest is in Fez. The medina was founded here in the 9th century and grew in the 12th and 13th centuries, under the Marinids, when it replaced Marrakesh as the capital of the kingdom. The urban fabric and the principal monuments in the medina – madrasas, fondouks, palaces, residences, mosques and fountains - date from this period. Although the political capital of Morocco was transferred to Rabat in 1912, Fez has retained its status as the country's cultural and spiritual centre.

Medina of Fez was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981.


Medina of Fez - Outstanding Universal Value

The Medina of Fez preserves, in an ancient part comprising numerous monumental buildings, the memory of the capital founded by the Idrisid dynasty between 789 and 808 A.D. The original town was comprised of two large fortified quarters separated by the Fez wadi: the banks of the Andalous and those of the Kaïrouanais. In the 11th century, the Almoravids reunited the town within a sole rampart and, under the dynasty of the Almohads (12th and 13th centuries), the original town (Fez el-bali) already grew to its present-day size. Under the Merinids (13th to 15th centuries), a new town (Fez Jedid) was founded (in 1276) to the west of the ancient one (Fez El-Bali). It contains the royal palace, the army headquarters, fortifications and residential areas. At that time, the two entities of the Medina of Fez evolve in symbiosis forming one of the largest Islamic metropolis's representing a great variety of architectural forms and urban landscapes. They include a considerable number of religious, civil and military monuments that brought about a multi-cultural society. This architecture is characterised by construction techniques and decoration developed over a period of more than ten centuries, and where local knowledge and skills are interwoven with diverse outside inspiration (Andalousian, Oriental and African). The Medina of Fez is considered as one of the most extensive and best conserved historic towns of the Arab-Muslim world. The unpaved urban space conserves the majority of its original functions and attribute. It not only represents an outstanding architectural, archaeological and urban heritage, but also transmits a life style, skills and a culture that persist and are renewed despite the diverse effects of the evolving modern societies.


In 1989 the Moroccan government created ADER Fès (Agency of Development and Restoration) to allocate funds and devise projects for the conservation of both the Medina and its unique way of life. By 1993 “The Rehabilitation Project of the Medina of Fez” project was firmly established with initial funding from the World Bank.



Given the vulnerability of the property, the State adopted a Development Plan of the Medina in 2001. This plan is re-evaluated every ten years. It incorporates specific provisions for the ancient district, and it should rationalise and organize the required urban interventions. In the framework of the programme for the promotion of regional tourism, the local authorities have undertaken safeguarding actions concerning houses threatened with collapse and the rehabilitation of the remarkable monuments of the Medina. The implementation of this programme has been entrusted to the Agency for De-densification and Rehabilitation of the Medina of Fez. The Inspection of the Historic Monuments is the responsibility of the Ministry for Culture and thus ensures the monitoring and the supervision of these projects in conformity with national and international standards for the conservation of historic monuments.


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