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The lands of North Africa were home to various people’s long before the city of Fes was first founded. And while the deserts of North Africa may not seem inviting, the land was likely far less arid and the earliest settlers likely arrived as early as 7000 BC. The local Berber people later established contact with the early Phoenicians and Greeks who traded in the Mediterranean Ocean. The area was known as Mauretania during the Classical Age and was part of the Roman Empire, until its decline when various Germanic tribes including the Vandals and the Visigoths settled here. The Byzantines retook the region but maintained only loose control. In the 7th century the Islamic forces from the east conquered the area, and this led to a power struggle between various groups that would last for several centuries.
The city of Fes, or Fez as it is often also known, was founded in the early 9th century during the reign of the Idrissid dynasty, which was founded by Idriss Ben Abdallah, who was a descendant of the prophet Mohammed. The city soon attracted more than nearly 8000 Arab families who had been expelled from Spain. This is today the old city, or the Fes-el-Bali.
The city’s large medina, along with the Karouine Mosque, which is today the largest religious structure in Morocco were built in the 9th century. With the founding of the Merenids dynasty a new Fes was built on the other side of the medina, and this is the New Fes, or Fes-el-Djedid.During the French colonial rule of the 19 th century, Fes a hotbed for the independence movement, and a site of several small uprisings. Since Moroccan independence the city has retained its own charms. Today the city is not the largest Moroccan city, but it is a great oasis in the desert, a cultural center that is a great reminder of the vast history of that nation.