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Fatima al-Fihri (800-870AD) founded the world’s first university in Morocco. 

Fatima al-Fihri was born in 800 AD in Qayrawan, Carthage (Tunisia). She had brothers and one sister. When she was a child, she moved to Fez with her family. Her father thought education was very important and made sure that all his sons and daughters were well-educated.


Fatima’s father and brothers died, so al-Fihri and her sister inherited their father’s fortune. Both women were committed Muslims and wanted to give back to their community. al-Fihri decided to build a mosque with teaching facilities for the Qayrawiyyin community in Fez. There was a prayer hall, a library, classrooms and a courtyard. 


By 859 it was named: the University of Al-Qarawiyyin. The university became famous and there were many people travelling from around the world to study there.  The sultans were impressed and gave donations and gifts. It is known as the world’s first university. 


Even after al-Fihri’s death (around 870), the university continued to grow. Today the library houses some of the world’s oldest manuscripts. al-Fihri is an important figure; she was a life-long learner, she helped others and she inspired other countries to build universities as well.

Al-Fihri (610L-800L): text

6 April 2020, Laura Webb


Image: University of Al-Qarawiyyin

Works Cited al-Fihri

Works Cited

Congress, Library O. "North Africa During the Classical Period." Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 15 Dec 2011,

Crowhurst, Anna-Marie. “The True Story of Fatima Al-Fihri, the Founder of the World's First Known University.” Stylist, Stylist, 30 Aug. 2018,

“Fatima Al-Fihri.” WISE Muslim Women, 6 Dec. 2019,


Ilham, Talbi. “Fatima Al-Fihri: Founder of the World's Oldest University” DW.COM, 8 May 2020, “Al-Qarawiyyin: World's Oldest University.” IslamiCity,


Mortimer, Rebecca. “Fatima Al-Fihri: Founder of the World's First University.” Manchester University Press, 8 Mar. 2018,


Zerbaoui, Josef Abdessalam. “8 Phenomenal Moroccan Women That Were Ahead of Their Time.” Morocco World News, 8 Mar. 2020,


Tham, S. M. “the way to paradise” 13 October 2016,

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