Restoring the world's oldest library

The ancient al-Qarawiyyin Library in Fez isn’t just the oldest library in Africa. Founded in 859, it’s the oldest working library in the world.

4 March 2016

Karen Eng, writing on ideas.ted.com, explains: 'Modern life had taken a toll on the library, with its buildings falling into disrepair. That’s why in 2012, the Moroccan Ministry of Culture asked TED Fellow and architect Aziza Chaouni to rehabilitate the library so that it can reopen to the general public.'

The al-Qarawiyyin, which includes a mosque, library, and university, was founded by Fatima El-Fihriya, the daughter of a rich immigrant from what today is Tunisia.

At risk were ancient volumes covering centuries of knowledge in fields from theology to law, grammar to astronomy. While scholars have always had access to the materials, the library’s deteriorating condition meant it had long been closed to the public. In 2012, Kuwait’s Arab Bank provided a grant for cultural preservation to the Moroccan Ministry of Culture, who asked Chaouni not only to restore the buildings and protect the materials, but to open the library as a new public space.

Read the full story opposite.

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