The Oldest University on Earth

The Oldest University on Earth

October 29, 2019

 
If you had to guess where the oldest existing university on the earth was, what's the first country or region that comes to mind? A good guess would be where history goes back furthest: south Asia, China, west Africa, maybe Europe? Well, if that's what you guessed, you'd be wrong.
The oldest operating university in the world, according to UNESCO, is the University of Al-Qarawiyyin (Al-Karaouine) located in Fez, Morocco. It was founded in 859 CE by Fatima Al-Fihri, a woman whose family immigrated to Fez from the city of Kairouan, present-day Tunisia. You’ll notice the resemblance between Fatima’s hometown and the name of the university. That's because she named the school after her own birthplace.
Not many details of Fatima’s personal life are known but, Al-Qarawiyyin is one of the only universities in the world to be founded by a woman. How's that for women leading the way? She funded and supervised the entire project with money left behind for her by her father. The university is also home one of, if the not the oldest libraries in the world. 
The library was renovated by Canadian-Moroccan architect Aziza Chaouni and reopened to the public in May 2016. 
Have you ever wondered who walked down the same halls as you, sat in the classroom as you, or maybe used the old textbook beofre you that the teacher gave you? Well, this university definitely has its fair share of history and it was home to some now very famous individuals.
Alumni from the university include:

 

Jewish Philosopher Maionides (1135-1204 CE), also known as Moses ben Maimon. He was a prominent astronomer, physician, and one of most prolific and influential Torah scholars of the Middle Ages.

 

Ibn Rushd (1126-1198 CE), who’s referred to in Latin literature as Averros, is known to the Western world for his commentary on Aristotle. He’s also regarded as one of the greatest thinkers and philosophers in history.

 

Pope Sylvester II (946-1003 CE) also studied at Al-Qarawiyyin. He was a prolific teacher and scholar in maths, and is said to be the first to introduce the decimal numeral system using Hindu-Arabic numerals to Europe.

 

Muhammed Al-Idrisi (1100-1165 CE), a North African Arab who lived in Palermo, Sicily (Italty), whose maps aided the European explorations during the Renaissance, is said to have lived in Fes and thus taught at Al-Qarawiyyin.

 

The reason for Fatima's endeavor was to establish a central location for teaching, learning, and spirituality for the new community that welcomed her. She wanted to leave something behind for the world that would outlive her and continue to give back even after she passed. She could have used the money she had to enjoy the rest of years. Instead, she decided to invest in society and became a figure who would be engraved into time & history

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