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The policy of Morocco in the preservation of architectural heritage of the city of Fez

Abstract of paper to be presented by Amina Aouchar, University Mohammed V at the conference "Fez, Morocco, Crossroads of Knowledge and Power: Celebrating 1,200 Years of Urban Life"

The city of Fez, dating back 12 centuries, represents a rich and exceptional architectural heritage that UNESCO recognized by classifying the medina, the old city, a world heritage site.   If monuments dating from the Middle Ages and the next centuries have come down to us is that previous generations were concerned by their preservation. Some public institutions, like the habous, were undertaken to find funds and to call up know-how to expand architectural heritage and keep it in good conditions.  However, this policy suffered during the nineteenth century of the general crisis that crossed the country which explains the state of disrepair that knew the old town in the early twentieth century. During the period of the Protectorate, a modern legislation was promulgated and an administration was established to supervise the inventory and rehabilitation of heritage, thus contributing to saving many monuments and allowing better awareness to the whole Moroccan architectural tradition.

After independence, this momentum is hampered by the priority given to social and economic development. Fez is empty of its inhabitants the most cultured, the wealthiest who will move to Rabat, political capital or in Casablanca, the economic capital of the Kingdom. Fez then declines, and the medina takes more and more rural appearances, as a result of population growth and rural-urban migration. But from the seventies, the architectural heritage of the city of Fez gets a renewed interest: on the one hand, the authenticity of the Moroccan culture and its roots in history are highlighted for political reasons related to attempts at destabilization of the state by left parties ;  on the other hand, during the same period, tourism is becoming a major foreign exchange earner for the country.

There, from the eighties, and the effort is still underway, the mobilization of public and private, domestic and international funds is noteworthy for the restoration of the most prestigious monuments, and also for the implementation of sanitation programmes and projects to renovating the old districts and preserving their most authentic style. At the same time, the modern city grows and the exceptional heritage of colonial period is rehabilited. The programme of rehabilitation of monuments and of the city in general is far from being completed, will it ever do? But the question remains : what functions these old buildings will get once rehabilitated? What policy can Morocco put in place to enable them to generate the funds needed to maintain them in good condition?

This presentation aims to answer to three main questions:
1-    How architectural heritage of Fez has been preserved before and during the Protectorate?
2-    What are the difficulties to carry out a dynamic policy in this field?
3-    What is the present situation of this heritage now?  In connection with that, two cases of rehabilitation, one on medina, another in new city, will be presented.

Center for Near Eastern Studies