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Fès (fĕs) or Fez (fĕz), Arab. Fas, city, N central Morocco. In a rich agricultural region, it is connected by rail to Casablanca, Tangier, and Algeria. The city is noted for its Muslim art and its handicraft industries. It gave its name to the brimless felt caps that were formerly characteristic items of Muslim dress in the Middle East. Fès was the capital of several dynasties and reached its zenith under the Merinid sultans in the mid-14th cent. It declined under the Sa'adi and Filali dynasties, who chose Marrakech as their capital. The ulama, or religious council, of the city often played a role in the selection of the sultans of Morocco.
Fès consists of the still vibrant old city (or medina; founded 808) and the new city (founded 1276), connected by walls. The city has more than 100 mosques; the mosque containing the shrine of Idris II, founder of the old city, is one of the holiest places in Morocco. The Qaraouiyine (or Qarawiyyin) mosque is the center of a Muslim university that was especially influential in the Middle Ages and has one of the world's oldest libraries. Fès is the destination of pilgrims who visit the many tombs of saints and scholars. Nearby are the thermal baths of Sidi Harazem.
(Fez), a city in Morocco, in the northern foothills of the Middle Atlas Range. Capital of Fès Province. Population, 325,300 (1971). Fèz is the main trade and industrial center and an important transportation junction in central Morocco. The city has textile, flour, and vegetable-oil mills, vegetable canneries, metalworking enterprises (including munitions factories), and wood-products enterprises; it is a major center of cottage and handicraft production.
Fès was founded in 789. In the ninth and tenth centuries, with interruptions, it was the capital of the Idrisid state. From the 13th to 15th centuries it was the capital of the Marinid state. In 1911, Fès was occupied by French troops. Subsequently it became an important center of the Moroccan national liberation struggle; it was the site of an uprising against the French protectorate in 1912 and of mass disturbances and demonstrations in 1936, 1937, 1951, and 1954. After Morocco won independence in 1956, Fès became one of the country’s major economic and cultural centers.
The architectural monuments in Old Fès (Fas el-Bali) and New Fès (Fas el-Jedid, developed since 1276), which adjoins Old Fès on the west, include the Karaouine Mosque (859), the fortified walls of Fas el-Jedid, the Attarine Madrasa (1323–25), and the Bu-Inaniyah Madrasa (1355). Since 1916 a modern city has developed along a radial plan in a southwesterly direction. The chief administrative and public buildings are located in the new section of Fès. There is a museum of Moroccan art, where local antiquities and fine handicraft works are displayed. The Muslim Karaouine University (founded 859) is located in Fès.