The Watch

Al-Azhar Mosque

Fez, Morocco

2008 World Monuments Watch

Located in the center of Fez, the Mosque of Al Azhar is an example of the austere Almohad style of architecture. The Almohads were a dynasty that ruled parts of North Africa and Spain between 1130 and 1269, and its rulers were orthodox Sunnis whose reformist ideas dictated simplicity in religious architecture. Typical of Almohad mosques, the Al Azhar Mosque comprises a prayer hall with horseshoe arches supported on columns, a courtyard with a fountain, and an octagonal minaret. An unusual feature of the minaret, however, is that it is entered through a second-story prayer hall that rests atop the main hall. This mosque is where the Sufi master Muhiuddin Ibn Arabi al-Hatimi al-Andalusi obtained spiritual enlightenment in 1197. In 2006, several adjoining houses collapsed onto the mosque during prayer, causing the dome to fall, killing ten people. Immediate priorities include temporarily stabilizing the structure, removing debris from the collapse, and repairing the dome to protect the interior against the elements. Despite the damage, worshipers continue to pray at Al Azhar, and it is hoped that Watch listing will help encourage further repairs and revival of this important religious center in Fez. Last update: 2008

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