Nestled in the hills of north central Morocco, Fès' ancient walled medina is a labyrinth of narrow alleys, passages, lanes and souks: the world's largest car-free urban space. Founded by Idris, an Arab refugee-turned-Moroccan king, Fès also claims the world's oldest university, built by Fatima al-Fihri, herself a refugee from Tunisia.
There's no specific wonder here other than the medina, and that's OK. Sometimes a city or neighborhood is exemplary enough to be a wonder in and of itself.
Listener Steve Fait joins us to talk about visiting Fès, navigating its maze, exploring its secrets and managing carpet salesmen. Plus, we discuss the joys of tagine, although the recipe this week is b'stilla, a savory/sweet Moroccan pot pie that is one of my all-time favorite foods.
Abun-Nasr, Jamil Mirʻi. A History of the Maghrib in the Islamic Period
Carrington, Daisy. "This 1,157-year-old library gets a facelift". CNN.
DK Eyewitness Morocco
Hourani, Albert. A History of the Arab Peoples
Lonely Planet Morocco
Nader, Emir. “The World's Oldest University Was Founded by a Woman of Color” in Vice
Othman, Najwa. “Kairouan: Capital of Political Power and Learning in the Ifriqiya”
Sarkeesian, Anita and Ebony Adams. History vs Women: The Defiant Lives that They Don't Want You to Know
Wolfert, Paula. The Food of Morocco
Photo by Alina Chan
On the western fringe of Germany, near the Dutch and Belgian borders, sits Aachen, favored city of Charles the Great, or Charlemagne. He was King of the Franks in the late 8th and early 9th centuries, and through conquest and economic success, he unified much of Western Europe. Crowned Emperor of the Romans on Christmas Day, 800, he could be considered the father of Europe.
Or he might just have been incredibly lucky.
Travis Dow from the History of Germany Podcast joins us to discuss Charlemagne, his conquests, reforms, and buildings, including his great chapel in Aachen, one of the best examples of early medieval architecture. In its central octagonal chapel, you can still see Charlemagne's simple marble throne, where many future German kings would be crowned.
Of course, there's lots of talk of food, from currywurst to döner kebabs, but Aachen is famous for its own special spicy cookies, Aachener printen, as well. And there's the story of Pippin, which is not at all as the musical described it.
Barbero, Alessandro. Charlemagne: Father of a Continent
Lonely Planet Germany
Schillig, Christiane. "Wider den Zahn der Zeit: Der Dom zu Aachen" Monumente Online: Magazine of the Deutsche Stiftung Denkmalschutz
Schneider-Ferber, Karin. Karl der Große. Der mächtigste Herrscher des Mittelalters
Wilson, Derek. Charlemagne
Photograph by Jim Linwood