Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Fes; Medersa Bouinania and the Margana

A short stroll down the Talaa Kbira from the Boujloud Gate is the Bouinania Medersa which the Rough Guide rates as the best building in all Morocco. Just to show that great religous buildings are not the sole domain of the pious, this merdersa and mosque complex was built for Sultan Abou Inan whose other claim to fame is fathering 325 sons in 10 years (there must have been girls as well but they don't seem to have been counted), deposing his father and a rather grisly line in murder and execution. He was eventually strangled by his Vizier. However many of the great Merinid  monuments were built under him.
This last Merinid medersa (built between1350 and 1356 CE) is a kalaidescope of carved cedar laceria,


 and stucco 

and showcases the heights of Merinid craftmanship. Such artistry does not come cheap but when presented with the accounts Abu-Inan is reported to have cast them into the river unread saying

"Whatever is beautiful cannot be too costly at any price. What is enthralling is never too costly."

Unusually the kufic script dividing the zellige from the stucco is not solely quotations from the Q'ran. It is largely a list of the properties whose income was given as an endowment to the Mosque/Medersa complex.and also fulsome praise for Abou-Inan.

Opposite the medersa on Talaa Kbir is the Dar-al-Magana or clockhouse. The waterclock built by Tlemsani was unique in the world.

The lower level of struts held 13 brass bowls.The motion of the clock was presumably maintained by a kind of small cart which ran from left to right behind the twelve doors. At one end, the cart was attached to a rope with a hanging weight; at the other end to a rope with a weight that floated on the surface of a water reservoir that was drained at a regular pace. Each hour one of the doors opened; at the same time a metal ball was dropped into one of the twelve brass bowls. The rafters sticking out of the building above the doors (identical to the rafters of the Bou Inania Madrasa) supported a small roof to shield the doors and bowls.

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