FBF: Ben Youssef Madrassa

The Ben Youssef Madrassa was an Islamic college in Marrakesh, Morocco. Named after the Almoravid sultan Ali ibn Yusuf who ruled between 1106–1142 CE. It is the largest Madrassa in all of Morocco. It was an active Madrassa until its closure in 1960, the building was then refurbished and reopened to the public as an historical site in 1982.

What is the value of history to a nation? It is obviously its past, but more importantly it is its identity and its future. A nation without a history may be free to pursue any future it desires, but in what direction?

Morocco was the nation whose warriors conquered Spain. Those brave ghazis made what became Al-Andalus and set in motion a series of event from the Reconquista to the Spanish Inquisition. They made a permanent mark into the architecture and cuisine of Spain. And from Spain, South America and the Sephardim.

As a visitor, coming here with my wife I can only attempt to appreciate the glorious past this nation have had. And hope its tolerance continues as it reclaim its glory in the 21st century.

Like this building, Morocco is hard to describe. It is orderly and intricate like the beautiful filigree on the building you see. It is grand and regal, demanding respect as you tread its soil and speak to its proud inhabitants. Yet like this building, it is old, needing work and preservation, a skeleton of its past no long fulfilling the purpose it was originally designed for.

We walked through this building breathing in the smell of history, of glory. It is from this site we gained a respect for its people and its culture. Morocco is not what we consider as greatness because we have the latest technology, the 20th century has been shaped by the decisions made in Washington and Moscow. But history is about perspectives, a magnificent empire that conquered land and subjugated people can be represented only by some monuments marking its past. And so can what we see as downtrodden people rise up and claim the future as nomads can build empires on horsebacks.

We loved the history of this place, and we look forward to the future this land will claim for itself.

<strong>“A little imagination goes a long way in Fes.” – Tahir Shah, Travels With Myself

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