Fez (Old Town / medina), Morocco
Hegira 751–6 / AD 1351–6
Founded by Abu ‘Inan (AH 751–6 / AD 1351–6).
This monument from the AH 8th / AD 14th century is distinctive from the other madrasas (religious schools) in Fez because of its great mosque, endowed with a minaret and a minbar, nowadays exhibited at the Batha Museum, as well as its two classrooms located opposite one another, its large ablutions hall and its hydraulic clock located opposite the main gateway of the madrasa.
On the north side of the madrasa, two adjacent doors open onto al-Tal'a Lakbira street, and a third door opens on the south side onto al-Tal'a Sghira street. Each door gives access to a hallway that leads to a staircase. The hallway on the south side is bent. The stairs in the two north hallways give access to a courtyard, around which the different elements of the building stand. The rectangular courtyard is paved entirely with marble and at its centre are the remains of a basin.
The Wadi Lamtiyyin, one of the branches of the Wadi Fez, crosses the south side of the courtyard and separates it from the mosque. The main façades of the courtyard lead to a classroom covered by a sculpted wood dome. The east and west galleries extend behind the two classrooms. They are separated from a courtyard by mashrabiyya (wooden lattice screens) set between the pillars.
Two small bridges, built on either side of the wadi, give access to the rectangular prayer room. Its north side opens out onto the courtyard through five large openings. The mosque is divided into two rows parallel to the south wall. The arcade that separates them is made up of five arches supported by six yellow-white marble columns. The mihrab set in the middle of the south wall is richly decorated. The square minaret rises from the northwest corner.
Opposite the main doorway of the madrasa, on the other side of the Tal'a Lakbira road, is the entrance to the dar al-wudu (ablutions house). The famous magana (hydraulic clock) is on the wall overlooking the road.
The madrasa has been restored several times since the AH 11th / AD 17th century following the earthquake suffered by the town. At the end of the AH 12th / AD 18th century, during the reign of the 'Alawid Sultan Mulay Sliman (r. AH 1207–38 / AD 1792–1822) entire sections were reconstructed, and in the 20th century, major restoration work was carried out to the load-bearing structure and the plaster, wood and zellij (small tiles) decoration.
Built in Fez in AH 751 / AD 1351 by Abu Inan to train his administrators and theologians, this is the largest and most beautiful of the madrasas built by the Marinids. The complex of buildings includes a mosque, two classrooms, one large ablutions room and an outbuilding known as the 'House of Clocks' (Dar Almagana). The courtyard of the madrasa is paved entirely in marble, with a basin at its centre, of which little has survived. It has been restored on several occasions, with the latest project being completed in 2004.
The madrasa has been dated using an inscription included in the zellij that cover the interior walls. The inscription bears the name of Abu 'Inan and the date of its inauguration in 756 / 1357.
Bel., A., Inscriptions arabes de Fès, offprint of Journal Asiatique 1917–1919, Paris.
Golvin, L., “La medersa Bouinaniya”, in Fès médiévale (ed. M. Mezzine), Paris 1992, pp.92–9.
Pérétié, M. A., “Les madrasas de Fas”, Archives marocaines, Vol. 18, 1912.
Terrasse, C., Médersas du Maroc, Paris, 1927.
Andalusian Morocco: A Discovery in Living Art, pp.124–6.
Mohamed Mezzine "Buinaniya Madrasa" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020. 2020. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;ma;Mon01;11;en
Prepared by: Mohamed MezzineMohamed Mezzine
Mohamed Mezzine is a heritage historian and the director of an established graduate program at the university of Fes on the history, preservation and restoration of architectural heritage in ancient (Moroccan) cities. He studied at University Mohamed V (Rabat) and obtained a Doctorat d'Etat in history from the University of Paris (7). Pr. Mezzine has been a visiting lecturer at the Universities of Metz, Tours (URBAMA) and Aix-en-Provence. He has likewise co-directed a number of joint research heritage projects involving French and Spanish academics. He has authored books and articles on the architectural heritage of the Islamic world including Fès médiévale, ed. Mohamed Mezzine (Paris : Ed. Autrement, 1992) ; “Political Power and Socio-Religious Networks in 16th-Century Fes,” in Islamic Urbanism in Human History: Political Power and Social Networks, ed. Tsugitaka Sato (London: Kegan Publ. de la Faculté des Lettres Sais-Fès, 2003). Pr. Mezzine is also a member of the national “Commission for the Preservation of Fes.”
Copyedited by: Margot Cortez
Translation by: Laurence Nunny
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen
MWNF Working Number: MO 14
Islamic Dynasties / Period
On display in
Discover Islamic Art Exhibition(s)Geometric Decoration | Geometric Decoration in Architecture Arabic Calligraphy | Monumental Calligraphy
Related MWNF Tour Related MWNF Travel Book
Virtual Visit Exhibition Trail
DownloadAs PDF (including images) As Word (text only)