The Unfinished Library of Fez, the City’s Abandoned Monument

photography by: Omri Westmark

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For centuries, the Moroccan city of Fez was worldwide famous for being at the forefront of astronomy, literary, medicine and mathematics, just to name a few. In an attempt to revive some of its former glory, a large library and education complex was built at the outskirts of town. However, when all things went amiss, the construction was halted and the incomplete arched edifice fell into oblivion, standing as a spectacular eyesore ever since.

Home to the University of Karueein, the oldest continuously operating academic institution in the world, Fez has long been renowned for its centuries-old tradition of scientific research and higher education. During the early 2010’s, the then mayor of Fez, Hamid Chabat, vowed to restore some of the city’s past fame as a hub of knowledge and progress. To make his promise come true, Chabat commissioned the construction of a large-scale library complex at the city’s western entrance, along the N6 road that links Fez with Meknes.


Punctured by a smattering of Moorish windows as well as a ridiculously big horseshow arch, akin to Paris’ Arc de Triomphe, the library can be described as a bizarre mishmash between Moroccan-style architecture and European monumentality. Upon inauguration, the massive building was set to be North Africa’s largest library. The future landmark was designed as part of a 14-hectare cultural complex, which would also consist of a center for arts education, an opera house, recreational spaces, a business center, a cinema hall and a couple of cafés and restaurants.


At first, everything went according to plan as the monumental edifice rapidly rose by each day that passed. However, at one point, the frantic construction pace abruptly ground to a halt. While there are countless speculations as to why it happened, the lack of funds as well as internal skirmishes between city council members were the main culprits behind its abandonment. In the years that followed, the concrete skeleton fell into a state of disrepair, serving as a tombstone to Chabat’s vision of modern Fez.


It wasn’t until recently when the local authorities announced their intentions to repurpose the building as a tech center, aptly named “Technopark Fez”. It remains to be seen if this failed library ever eludes its state of dilapidation, one thing is clear though, the site in its current form occasionally attracts curious passersby and urban explorers. It is worth noting that the derelict monument is fenced off and guarded by attack dogs around the clock. If you wish to have a closer glimpse of it, speak with the local watchman, who happens to be quite friendly once he gets tipped.