The World's Oldest Library in Morocco Reopens Its Doors to the Public

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Love history, books, and beautiful architecture? Consider taking a trip to Fez, Morocco, to browse the shelves of the world’s oldest working library at the al-Qarawiyyin University. Though the ancient book repository closed for renovations in 2012, the refurbished space is now finally open to visitors again, Tech Insider reports.

A wealthy Tunisian merchant’s daughter, Fatima al-Fihri, founded al-Qarawiyyin University as a mosque in 859 CE. By the 10th century, Atlas Obscura reports, it grew into a full-fledged university with a library. Today, it’s considered to be the world’s oldest existing and continually operating institute of higher education, as well as the first degree-awarding educational institution. Eventually, the University of al-Qarawiyyin moved to another location in Fez, but the mosque and library remained at the original site.

With its courtyards, calligraphy-and-tile decorated walls, and arched buildings, the al-Qarawiyyin University’s library is as ornate as it is historic. But thanks to centuries of neglect, its façade began crumbling. Meanwhile, wall fissures, cracked beams, humidity, and even plumbing problems threatened the library’s priceless collection of texts. The storied center of learning shut its doors to the public until architect Aziza Chaouni was finally selected to refurbish the space.

By May 2016, al-Qarawiyyin University’s library was finally fit for use. Chaouni did her best to preserve its original appearance, but she also upgraded the facilities for modern scholars, the Associated Press reports, by adding modern furniture, solar panels, a new gutter system, digital locks to the rare books room, and other contemporary features.

In the past, the library was only open to scholars and researchers who sought official permission to browse its collections. But later this year, a wing with an exhibition room and a café might open to non-scholars. Can't afford a ticket to Fez? Check out photos of the al-Qarawiyyin University’s refurbished library over at Tech Insider.

[h/t Tech Insider]