I am standing in a small room overlooking the meticulously tiled courtyard of an ancient theological college. It is a stunning example of Arab-Andalous architecture. Its tile work and stucco decoration are complemented by exquisite cedar work carvings. The main courtyard has a low pool at its center built with more handmade tiles, and is surrounded by arched doorways leading to its lovely prayer halls. This pattern of a courtyard surrounded by rooms is replicated again and again as you follow the long hallways around the building. Mini-courtyards around mini-rooms (that some describe as ‘cells’ because they’re so small) are on the ground floor, and upstairs its same except the courtyards are replaced by balconies.
At its height, 900 theological students lived in these 132 cells while studying here. It seems almost impossible, given the size of the cells, some of which have little ladders up to a second level where I suppose a couple of additional bedrolls could be unfurled.
The building was founded in the 14th century and restored by a Saadian sultan in the 16th century to its intricate design. It underwent another restoration in 1950, and is now one of the best sights in a bustling tourist city. The building is in the largest city in the southern part of a country popular with European tourists, especially French, who have recently been buying up property here and sending the traditionally low real estate prices soaring. The country sits in the dry north of a continent that also has quite a bit of French influence, as well as British, Portuguese, German, Belgian, Italian, and Spanish.
Do you know where I am?
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