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The city has been called the "Mecca of the West" and the "Athens of Africa," a nickname it shares with Cyrene in Libya. During Idrisid rule the capital city was known as al-ʿĀliyá, with the name Fas being reserved for the separate site on the other side of the river; no Idrisid coins have been found with the name Fez, only al-ʿĀliyá and al-ʿĀliyá Madinat Idris.It is not known whether the name al-ʿĀliyá ever referred to both urban areas.

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Fez reached its zenith in the Marinid-era, regaining the status as the capital.

Numerous madrasas, mosques, zawiyas and city gates were constructed which survived up until today.

These buildings are considered the hallmarks of Moorish and Moroccan architectural styles.

Marinid sultans also founded Fes Jdid quarter, where newer palaces and gardens were established.

The Miknasa were driven out of Fez in 980 by the Maghrawa, their fellow Zenata, allies of the Caliphate of Córdoba.

It was in this period that the great Andalusian ruler Almanzor commissioned the Maghrawa to rebuild and refurnish the Al-Kairouan mosque, giving it much of its current appearance.In the 10th century the city was contested by the Caliphate of Córdoba and the Fatimid Caliphate of Tunisia, who ruled the city through a host of Zenata clients.The Fatimids took the city in 927 and expelled the Idrissids, after which their Miknasa were installed there.During this time, the Jewish population of the city grew as well, with the Mellah (Jewish quarter) attracting the Jewish migrants from other North African regions.After the overthrow of the Marinid dynasty, the city largely declined and replaced by Marrakesh for political and cultural influence, but remained as the capital under the Wattasids and modern Morocco until 1912.Comparatively little is known about Idrisid Fez, owing to the lack of comprehensive historical narratives and that little has survived of the architecture and infrastructure of early Fez (Al-'Aliya).

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