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One of the oldest libraries
Qarawiyyin library, Morocco




N. B. Andrews

September 20, 2016

Today, as I often do at midday, I sat reading online in the hospital computer lab; mainly research, news and analytical essays.

A young admistrative officer -an alumnus of the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ) aporoached and politely offered to download to my phone, a TV app.

He intimated that over the weekend, it had enabled him to watch the EPL on his smartphone.

I assured him that unfortunately, my schedule hardly permitted me any time for watching football.

"What did you read this weekend and this morning?", I asked him.

"I did not read anything today nor this weekend", he stated sheepishly.

"Well, why not? How will you widen your horizon beyond Tema if you do not read? You are a journalism major; you are young; you are an African, you must read seriously all the time!", I told him emphatically.

By now, I had his attention.

He was about to become defensive- as most of my country men do when confronted with criticism.

A few people in the lab giggled nervously.

I continued to hammer through the following points in a low but deliberate tone.

One of the oldest libraries in the world- dating from the 9th century, is almost ready for reopening after extensive refurbishment. The library is located in the ancient city of Fez in the Kingdom of Morocco.

This library called the Qarawiyyin library is located within the oldest center of tertiary learning (Qarawiyyin University) and the first undergraduate degree awarding institution in the world.

It contains over 4000 priceless manuscripts and texts including a Holy Quran from the 9th century written in wonderfully embellished Kufic script.

The alumni of the prestigious Qarawiyyin University who used this library include Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides, the great Muslim historian Ibn Khaldun, and the Andalusian diplomat Leo Africanus.

Are you ready for this?

It is really good........

The library was founded by a woman, Fatima al-Fihri.

A woman architect, Aziza Chaouni -a Fez native, is in charge of the refurbishment over a thousand years later.


....there are other ancient libraries in Africa, including the ones in Alexandria and Timbuktu.

So, when and where did we get the idea that reading and scholarship is to be derided- often called "book long"- and that it is not part of African tradition or culture?

Why have our so called "leaders" promoted or shown a lukewarm attitude to this inaccurate notion?

Why is it that instead of referring to/researching and adhering to recorded time tested precepts, our "leaders" are so happy to go off on a frolic of their own; improvising ad nauseum from their often warped and limited world view?

And when asked to recalibrate, they stubbornly insist that, "We are Africans, we must do it the African way". Or worse, "We have to start somewhere".

No wonder our situation remains precarious.

We have discarded our true heritage and instead engaged in a macabre dance with death and destruction.

"Eei, doctor hmmmmm. .." whispered one young man.

By now there were no more giggles in the computer lab and no one offered to download for me another frivolous app.

No, I have never been on Whatsapp either.

Long Live the Qarawiyyin Library.

Blebo We-Sakumo
Sept 19, 2016




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