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Thursday Thoughts – School Days

When I go abroad, I try to visit at least one school – if possible. I guess we all like to see how our own profession works in other parts of the world. In Morocco my visit was to an abandoned school – but still it was very interesting.

The Ben Youssef Madrasa was an Islamic college in Marrakesh, Morocco, named after the  sultan Ali ibn Yusuf (reigned 1106–1142), who expanded the city and its influence considerably. It is the largest Medrasa in Morocco, and lies totally embedded in the city. There was nothing to reveal its true looks from the outside.

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The college was founded in the 14th century, and its 130 student dormitory cells cluster around the courtyard, richly carved in cedar, marble and Moroccan style stucco.

The pool is the wash basin – elaborately decorated in marble tiles. I wonder how several hundred students were organized to perform this ceremony? Every day?

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As required by Islam, the carvings contain no representation of humans or animals, and consist entirely of inscriptions and geometric patterns.

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This madrasa was one of the largest theological colleges in North Africa and may have housed as many as 900 students. Hard to understand from what we could see of the size.

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The students’ cells were all on the first floor, and richly decorated corridors led to each dorm.

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These beautiful doors opened up to the courtyard, and the student living here could see across the yard to the student on the other side. The cells were very small, maybe 9 square metres, and most of them had no windows at all.

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The college was still alive and working when I was born, but closed down in 1960. The madrasa was refurbished and reopened to the public as an historical site in 1982.

Those who lived and worked here were surrounded by beauty…but I wonder where all those students went when it closed down…? And, would I have loved to study here – inside this spectacular work of art? Would you?

32 comments on “Thursday Thoughts – School Days

  1. Hi Leya, do you pre- book your tour of the schools you visit or just roll up? As a retired teacher, I wouldn’t mind doing the same thing. Here in Australia, strangers are not welcomed into schools and probably need to go on special open days or have some official pass. Just wondering.
    Great photos as always!

    • Thank you, Francesca. If I go with my students I have to pre-book of course, but I usually don’t. I agree that in some schools in some countries I am not welcome, but I usually just go in and ask. Sometimes a No and sometimes a Yes. So far it is the western, industrial countries that do not let you in. In Asia and Africa I have been admitted without any problems – except for China. There I had to go via the travel agency. It is very interesting to visit a class and to talk to both teachers and students. Do try!

  2. Dear Leya,

    thank you for an interesting post. Would you be so kind to tell me smth concerning Moroccan tradition. I’m interested in their traditional female clothes takshita and I would like to order one for myself. However, I don’t know how to do it and whether they could sew one for not a muslim woman. As well I respect their traditions and I hope my idea won’t insult anyone. Could you give me a practical advice what is better to do?

    Best regard,

    Maria

  3. Incredible architectural details – and your photos of everything are great! I can’t imagine what it would have been like to live and study in such a place.

    • Thank you – and yes, a bit difficult to imagine that, but I guess there must have been very much prestige in it. I would have liked to work in such beautiful surroundings.

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