The Historically Valuable Sahrij Medersa

The city of Fez has always been known to be a city of mystery, culture and hidden architectural treasures. As many other cities in Morocco have modernized to accommodate the growing tourism industry, Fez has withdrawn into its traditions. This has made the city a Moroccan gem of mosques, high walls and narrow passageways, almost as if it has been lost in time. One of the attractions to Fez is its Medersas, of which the Sahrij Medersa is very popular amongst tourists.

The Merenid Sultans were responsible for the construction of the first Moroccan Medersas. Their influence and the creative capabilities of the Andalousian Arabs can be seen in the detailed mosaics and stuccos that adorn both the Andalousian Mosque and the Sahrij Medersa. All medersas, including the Sahrij Medersa, were created as Islamic educational facilities where the Qur’an, medicine, astronomy, mathematics and Arabic was taught to students. As a Koranic School, the Sahrij Medersa also featured boarding rooms for students who came to the school from surrounding villages and towns.

Built in the year 1321, the Sahrij Medersa’s name was derived from a pool that is located within the medersa, and in the Arabic language “Sahrij” means “pool”. The most recognized features of the medersa are the white and green minarets that can be seen on top of the structure. As with most medersas, the Sahrij Medersa’s courtyard is paved and the interior has some of the most exquisite cedar wood and stone carvings. Even the mosaics were chosen and designed with religious connotations. An interesting fact about the tiles is that each color represents something. For instance, the color green is for Islam, white is for purity, black indicates depth, yellow is symbolic of wealth and the color blue represents the sky. The medersa does still function as an educational facility and many times the students can be heard practicing their verses.

Repairs and renovations have been ongoing in all the medersas in Fez. Disappointingly, tourists and visitors have been removing the ancient and delicate mosaic tiles from the original masterpieces as souvenirs. Such damage and plundering of these historical buildings is a direct attack on the history and culture of the city. Restoration work is slow, as much time is spent on the smaller details and long-term survival of the medersas. The Sahrij Medersa is not only a structure of historical importance but, a religious institution which should be respected as such.