Qantara Qantara

The al-Shammā‘īn Funduq

  • Name : The al-Shammā‘īn Funduq
  • Place : Fez, Morocco
  • Construction date/period : Thirteenth century
  • Construction materials : brick, mortar, lime, cob
  • Architectural pattern : carved and painted wood
  • Dimensions : 25 m x 23 m; total surface area: around 600 m2
  • Inscriptions :

    In the frieze under the ceiling of the hall, in ornamented kufic script: Qur'an, XXV, 62–64; below: the ta'awwud: A’ūdu bi Allāh mina al-shaytān al-rajīm,التعوذ، أعوذ بالله من الشيطان الرجيم ‘I seek refuge in God against Satan the abuser’; the basmala: bismi Allāh al-Rahmān al-Rahīm  البسملة، بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم’In the name of God, the Merciful and Compassionate’, and the tasliya التصلية: ‘May God bless our lord Muhammad and may He favour him’.

The Funduq is located near the Qarawīyyīn Mosque, and takes its name from the souk of the candle makers (cham', chammā’). It was used as a caravanserai and a dry fruit and vegetable market, with the first floor housing the cobblers.

The door of the Qarawīyyīn Mosque, known as that of the ‘ancient potters’, founded by the Almoravids (1056–1147), was converted into the ‘Shammā‘īn door’ at the beginning of the Marinid era (1196–1549). This Funduq was first mentioned at this time, when the sultan Abū Ya‘qūb Yūsuf (reigned 1286–1307) restored it and turned it into a waqf for the Mosque. Al-Jaznā'ī, a historian at the end of the Marinid era, claimed that the building was already standing at this period. He said that the building was restored on the orders of the qadi (Muslim judge) Muhammad ibn Abī Sabr, at the time when al-Hudūdī was the city governor and before the latter ordered other works in 1290 or 1293. The Funduq probably ties in with the remodelling and reconversion of this part of the centre of Fez at the beginning of the Marinid era. It was ravaged by fires twice, the last of which broke out in 1974; only the hall escaped the flames but the remains of ruined walls are still visible and enable us to reconstitute the building’s organization and layout. 

The entry hall is rectangular in plan, and connects to the north-west corner. The entrance is fitted with a door with double door-leafs, and opens onto a hall divided in two. The wall in this facade, which certainly predates the Marinid era, is made of cob covered by a revetment of fired bricks, a technique applied throughout the building. The monument is organized on three levels: 23 rectangular, almost uniform rooms are arranged around a rectangular courtyard adorned with a wall fountain whose basin still stands, and is surrounded by fourteen square-section, fired-brick pillars (in various states of conservation) that support a gallery.

This building’s decorations were exceptional: one can see cedar lintels and corbels on the portico that escaped the ravages of the fires, and which for the most part came from the entry hall. They are adorned with arches with lobed voussoirs, with a mixture of floral and geometric decorations. The composition of these designs demonstrates continuity with anterior works, although some of the elements are new, like the shape of the arch and the rendering of the vegetal forms. While the foiled arch was only used to change a line of writing in Almoravid then Almohad floral decorations, Marinid arches were repeated on a single panel. The composition’s axiality remained just as rigorous: the foliage, however, was no longer used merely to fill areas, but was extended to adorn the spandrels. Several details of the floral decorations are part of a very strong local tradition that can be seen in the Qarawīyyīn Mosque, and these are combined with elements inspired by Andalusian Córdoba. Fine Qur'anic script and inscriptions of good omens are also present, with regular lines and acutely bevelled elegant vertical strokes mimicking a swan’s neck, on a ground of pinecones and palm leaves. They attest to the return to local traditions of the eleventh to twelfth centuries and to those of the al-Andalus of the eleventh century.

The Shammā‘īn funduq was a building with economic functions, located in the heart of the city of Fez. Its restoration and immobilization for the Great Qarawīyyīn Mosque were related to the symbolic conquest of the city by the Marinids; their madrasa construction programme debuted with the sultan, who restored the monument and constituted it in waqf (endowment).


Khechine, T., Etude monographique et essai de restitution et de réhabilitation du Fondouk Chammaïn de Fès, Mémoire de fin d'études, INSAP, Rabat, 1997.


Cambazard-Amahan, C., Le décor sur bois dans l'architecture de Fès, époques almoravide, almohade et début mérinide, Paris, 1989, CNRS.

Le Tourneau, R., Fès avant le Protectorat, Casablanca, 1949, Publications de l'Institut des Hautes Etudes Marocaines, XLV.

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