Fes, City of Forgotten Wonders
Adil Tazi explains the unusual history of his ancestors in the Moroccan city of Fes.
First of all, I am a freshman student from the Moroccan Kingdom, known as Fes, although I was born in another city. It is a pleasure and an honor for me to write this article about myself, my culture and also my ancestors. I was inspired to do this after reading an article in this newspaper by a student from Turkmenistan which touched me and moved me tears.
I would like to make this article more interesting and exciting by taking an overview of the main ideas which will be developed in these columns. I will start by gıvıng my biography and the history of my city and finish by speaking about my origins (my ancestors from my father’s and mother’s side) in order to clarify some misunderstandings and differences between my background and that of the people with whom we share the same country.
First of all, let me tell you about my biography. I was born in Casablanca (as in the famous Hollywood film made in 1942) which is the economic capital and the biggest city in Morocco. You could call it the New York of Morocco. I was born into a modern but conservative family and I got a strong education which didn’t allow me to make any errors in any area. I worked everyday nonstop, thinking positively, and hoping to avoid all bad things and bad people.
Both of my parents were educated in France and my whole family stays in touch with the nation, even though France doesn’t always give deserving people the right to progress in a positive way for the common good.
My mother is descended from Idris I, the founder of the Idrisid Dynasty which ruled part of Morocco from 788 to 985 AD. My ancestors from my father’s side originated in Al-Andalus, the medieval Muslim state in the Iberian Peninsula, and came to Morocco as refugees after the Spanish Reconquista. I believe that this was the biggest mistake made by these people. If I were in there place I would have preferred to drown between these two continents in the Mediterranean sea.
My city of origin is called ‘Fez’ – translated from Arabic to English this means ‘the axe’, because this tool was established around this time as a way to cut wood. The army of the Ottoman Empire came to know this city very well during its invasion of the north of Africa in 1556.
The city was founded on a bank of the Jawhar River by Idris I (my illustrious ancestor) in 789. His son Idris II built a settlement on the opposing river bank. These settlements soon developed into two separate, walled and largely autonomous sites, which were often in conflict with one another: Madinat Fas and Al-‘Aliya. In 808 Al-‘Aliya replaced Walili as the capital of the Idrisids. For more details about the history of the Idrisid Dynasty you can have a look on the internet.
My city is known as the ‘Andalusian citadel’. It’s a cradle of science and culture, the first university in the world, the University of Al-Karaouine, was established here (have a look in Guinness Book of Records) and it’s also the spiritual capital of the Arabic Maghreb. You can discover a lot of interesting things here: the music (for example Tarab al Andalusi) is so spiritual and magical that it makes everyone feel as though they are being cradled like a baby.
The rich culinary and gastronomic tradition is indescribable because it’s so diverse and has so many different flavors and ingredients. Thinking about the food reminds me of my grandmother (rest in peace) with her magic hands cooking and leading the family like a virtuoso playing the piano or a maestro conducting a philharmonic orchestra. The architecture of the city is inspired by the buildings of Al-Andalus, the land of my ancestors, and lookıng at it makes your soul fly between the different parts of an edifice, chasing all the negative waves away.
I would like to express my distaste for the people of the rural exodus and to all the Africans and Europeans who made me feel like a foreigner and a stranger in my own land. But I would like to express my gratitude to the Christian Spainiards or Iberian people, despite the fact that they embrace another religion, for their efforts to conserve and restore physical remains of Al-Andalus’ culture.
I would also like to cry out ‘Viva España’ in the language of Cervantes, but at the same time express my remorse because due to the Spanish Reconquista which finished after the battle of Grenada in 1492. I believe that the Spanish people made some of the same mistakes as French people, and this is why today life is not so positive for the local people in either of these countries, and also in other countries which were once colonial Empires.
Finally, I would like to conclude this article by thanking the person who gave the opportunity to write this article and in this way to explain the history of my culture to people who have misunderstood it. As Alfred Einstein said, ‘Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.’