Morocco // Fez, Meknes and the Middle Atlas //

Fez el Jedid

Unlike Fez el Bali, whose development and growth seems to have been almost organic, Fez el Jedid (“New Fez”) was a planned city, built by the Merenids at the beginning of their rule, under Sultan Abou Youssef in 1276, as a practical and symbolic seat of government.

The chronicles present the Merenids’ decision to site their city some distance from Fez el Bali as a defence strategy, though this would seem less against marauders than to safeguard the new dynasty against the Fassis themselves – and it was only in the nineteenth century that the walls between the old and new cities were finally joined. It was not an extension for the people in any real sense, being occupied largely by the vast royal palace of Dar el Makhzen and a series of garrisons. This process continued with the addition of the Mellah – the Jewish ghetto – at the beginning of the fourteenth century; forced out of Fez el Bali after one of the periodic pogroms, the Jews provided an extra barrier (and scapegoat) between the sultan and his Muslim faithful, not to mention a source of ready income conveniently located by the palace gates.

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