Imagine heading to the library for some light reading and picking up a 9th-century Quran or a 10th-century account of the Prophet Muhammad's life. Both works, as well as 4,000 other rare books, can be found at the world's oldest continually operating library. Al-Qarawiyyin library in Fez, Morocco opened in 1359 AD, inside the world's oldest university, which was built in 859 AD and bears the same name. The library has since been restored to its former glory, and the precious documents that were once under lock and key are now available to the public.
You can thank two boss women for your access to this historic space. First, Fatima El-Fihriyathe. This wealthy Muslim woman founded both the university and the library because she had a passion for knowledge and was curious about the world. She also attended the university. Don't believe us? According to Business Insider, you can see her original diploma on a wooden board in the library. You could say she was a woman before her time.
Next, you can thank Aziza Chaouni and her team of architects for the building's major renovation. The engineers had some formidable tasks ahead of them, like rebuilding the library's foundations, installing a new sewage system, and re-tiling the iconic green roof. To prevent humidity from harming the works even further, they installed air conditioning. Other modern improvements were made, such as installing solar panels, digital locks to secure the rare book room, and, according to CNN, "a high-tech laboratory built for restoring precious manuscripts."
Al-Qarawiyyin university is only 30 years younger than the city of Fez itself and was built around the time early forms of algebra were being invented. Pretty crazy, huh? Imagine that as you feast your eyes on Morocco's best kept secret and visit the library's exhibition room. Feel free to read the works of renowned scholars—if you can understand Arabic, anyway.