Only a few things are built to last forever, pyramids, the great wall of China, and maybe the love Jack had for Rose in the movie Titanic. However, another institute of knowledge has withstood the test of time in Fez, Morocco. Ranking it in the Genius world book record as the oldest University in the World, still operating university in the world. This is an insight into the oldest university on the globe.
Table of Contents
All you need to know about the Oldest University in the World: The University of Al-Karaouine
The debut of the University of Al-Karaouine
Founded in 859 by the Tunisian Fatima Al-Fihri, in Fez, Morocco. The University of Al-Karaouine preceded the Bologna university and Oxford university by a few decades. And it lived and thrived for more than 1200 years, and is still counting as the oldest university in the world recognized by the Genius world record and UNESCO as a world heritage.
Fatima inherited her wealth from her late merchant father, and with a vision to create a social space enabling intellectual exchanges for progressive learning and teaching, she decided to invest in building what later will be the foundation of all modern universities.
Then and now, of the university of Al-Karaouine.
Al-karaouine started as a mosque and an associated school commonly known in the Moroccan kingdom and north Africa as Madrasa. With a narrow focus on Islamic religious sciences and teaching. But, as the Madrasa grew in popularity among scholars and students in Islam, it expanded its list of programs to include logic, medicine, mathematics, astronomy, and many others.
With that being said, the huge number of applicants to the university made it impossible to accept them all, and to get only the best, Al-Karaouine University introduced a selection system based on mastery of the Arabic language, natural sciences, and remembering the whole Quran by heart.
Also, Al-karaouine university was the first institution in history to introduce the awarding degree system and diplomas. The museum of Al-karaouine still showcases today the original diploma of Fatima Al-Fihri carved in wood, and a few other important manuscripts and documents from famous scholars of that era, such Al-Idrissi, who’s maps helped merchants to navigate the world.
The university received support from sultans and kings, with gifts, books, and manuscripts. The university today has over 400,000 books and 4000 rare manuscripts. Including 14th century work of “Al-Muqaddimah” and an original copy of “Al-Ibar” by Ibn Khaldun.
How to study at Al-karaouine?
The University of Al-karaouine was the hub for acquiring knowledge in the Islamic world, but it was never limited to a certain religion or faith. The University is open and has educated many historical figures, both in the Islamic world and the western world. Most notable example was Pope Sylvester II, who was a scholar of the university, and had a flaming passion for astronomy and mathematics.
The university was officially recognized by the Moroccan university system in 1963, but it kept its traditional ways of teaching when it comes to Islamic religion-related programs, where it’s not uncommon to find students sitting in a semi-circle around the teacher.
While for more western sciences, the University holds a respectable reputation as one of the best in North Africa for theology, law, medicine, humanities, science, business administration, and of course Islamic studies.
Al-Karaouine today hosts around 25,000 students, 7% of them are international students, while women hold 60% of the occupied chairs. The University offers a wide range of extracurricular activities, cultural events, and sports tournaments.
The University building itself is located in the heart of Fez and shares the serenity and calm vibes with the whole city. The exterior is quite simple and understated, the building is made up of a series of white arches supported by columns. With a large central courtyard that is surrounded by various academic buildings. While other faculties are surrounding the main old mosque and building on a 30-hectare land.
The best part about Al-kairaouine is that you can study in it today. With fees ranging from around 2000 to 3000 dollars a year, making it is affordable and yet highly rewarding. You can check out the official programs here.