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Conference to Focus on Urban Planning in Fez, Morocco

Conference to Focus on Urban Planning in Fez, Morocco

International scholars will convene at UCR and UCLA to discuss preservation of the historic city, which faces issues similar to some Southern California cities.

(November 3, 2008)

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – An international conference focusing on contemporary urban planning and preservation issues in the historic city of Fez, Morocco, will begin at UC Riverside on Friday, Nov. 14, and conclude at UCLA on Saturday, Nov. 15.

Conservation issues raised in Fez – a 1,200-year-old walled city that is a UNESCO world heritage site – are similar to those of historic communities in the United States, from Riverside and Los Angeles to Williamsburg, Va., said Susan Ossman, professor of anthropology and director of UCR’s Global Studies program. The historic center of Fez is considered the archetypal North African, Arab and Muslim walled city, she said.

Southern California’s Mission-style architecture – particularly patio homes can colorful mosaics – comes from Andalusian and North African sources, Ossman noted. Ornamentation like that at Riverside’s Mission Inn is similar to what one finds in North Africa, especially in urban centers like Fez which welcomed Muslim and Jewish refugees in the wake of the Spanish reconquest of the Iberian peninsula and the final expulsion of non-Christians in 1492.

“When you think about how to renovate old quarters today, there are questions about authenticity,” Ossman said. “There are questions about aesthetics. How do we rethink an old city? Any study of urbanization, particularly in developing countries, also raises questions about poverty and wealth.”

Scholars from North America, Europe and North Africa will discuss preservation issues in Fez, religious ritual and politics, revision of urban space, and Moroccan literature, architecture and music during the two-day conference. Events at UCR will be held in Humanities and Social Sciences 1500.

The conference is co-sponsored by UCR and UCLA. It is free and open to the public. Parking at UCR is $6.

Event sponsors are the UCLA Center for Near Eastern Studies, UCLA International Institute, University of California Humanities Research Center, UCR Global Studies Program, UCR Center for Ideas and Society, UCR Office of Research, UCR Departments of Anthropology, Music and Art History, Social Science Research Council's Islam and Muslims in World Contexts Program, and the Moroccan American Cultural Center in Los Angeles.

For more information, contact Sharon Malsed at (951) 827-2742 or

Conference schedule:

Friday, Nov. 14 – UCR, Humanities and Social Sciences 1500

9:45 a.m.: Welcome and introduction, Susan Ossman, UCR

Session I: Preserving the Old City
Chair: Anne Sutherland, UCR

10 a.m.: The Policy of Morocco in the Preservation of Architectural Heritage of the City of Fez. Amina Aouchar, University Mohammed V
10:30 a.m.: Negotiating “European” and “Local” Characters: Preserving Fez during the French Protectorate. Colette Apelian, independent scholar
11 a.m.: Conservation and Sustainability: Case Study of the Sahrij and Sbaiyin Madrassa Complex. Bonnie Kaplan, Sahrij and Sbaiyin Madrassa Complex Restoration Project
11:30 a.m.: Discussant: Irene Bierman, UCLA

Noon-2 p.m.: Lunch break

Session II: Religious Ritual and Politics
Chair: Mokhtar Ghambou, Yale University

2 p.m.: Political Legitimacy and Popular Participation in the Royal Musalla of Fez. Stacy Holden, Purdue University
2:30 p.m.: The Ruins of Hierarchy: Shifting Powers of Person and Place in a Fassi Religious Rite. Emilio Spadola, Colgate University
3 p.m.: Transcribing Jewish Fez: Colonial Linguistics and the Ethnographic Construction of Judeo-Arabic. Oren Kosansky, Lewis & Clark College
3:30 p.m.: Discussant: Muhamad Ali, UCR

Saturday, Nov. 15 – UCLA Faculty Center, California Room

9:15 a.m.: Welcome. Susan Slyomovics, UCLA
9:20 a.m.: Summary of previous day. Susan Miller, UC Davis

Session III: Divisions and Revisions of Urban Space
Chair: Susan Slyomovics, UCLA

9:30 a.m.: From “Rabad” to “Habitat Social”: An Urban-Cultural History of the Suburbs of Fez. Said Ennahid, Al-Akhawayn University
10 a.m.: Is There a Secret Tunnel Under Fez: Oral History vs. Remote Sensing. Kamal Oudrhiri, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, NASA
10:30 a.m.: From Open Air Sewer to Multi-Performative Infrastructure: River Restoration in the Medina of Fez, Morocco. Aziza Chaouni, University of Toronto, and Takako Tajima, landscape architect
11 a.m.: Carnet de quartier. Change on Zkak Roumane in the early 2000s. Justin McGuinness, American University in Paris
11:30 a.m.: Discussant: Susan Miller, UC Davis

Noon-2 p.m.: Lunch break

Session IV: Fez, Beyond Borders
Chair: Said Ihrai, University Mohammed V

2 p.m.: Readings from “Secret Son.” Laila Lalami, UCR
2:30 p.m.: Maison Arabes au Maroc: Fez and French Colonial Architecture. Patricia Morton, UCR
3 p.m.: Danza Mora: North Africa in Flamenco, and Flamenco in North Africa. Walter Clark, UCR
3:30 p.m.: Discussant: Dwight Reynolds, UC Santa Barbara


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