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.
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?
As required by Islam, the carvings contain no representation of humans or animals, and consist entirely of inscriptions and geometric patterns.
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.
The students’ cells were all on the first floor, and richly decorated corridors led to each dorm.
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.
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?