WTF Fun Fact 13146 – Oldest Library in the World

Al-Qarawiyyin Library is the oldest library in the world. It is located in Fez, Morocco, and was part of the oldest continually operating university in the world, al-Qarawiyyin University. The university opened in 859. (If you’re thinking this can’t be right because Oxford is the oldest university, note that it’s simply the oldest in the English-speaking world. Even the University of Bologna was founded after al-Qarawiyyin.)

Al-Qarawiyyin had a library, but sultan Abu Inan Faris founded the one we consider the oldest continually operating library in 1349. He was able to collect some of the world’s most precious manuscripts.

How the al-Quarawiyyin Library came to be

Al-Qarawiyyin university, its library, and a mosque were founded by a woman (around the same time algebra was invented!).

Her name was Fatima El-Fihriya, and she even attended the university. Born in Tunisia around 800 AD, her family became wealthy as a result of her father’s successful merchant business and migrated to Fez.

Both well-educated, Fatima and her sister Maryam went on to found mosques in Fez. Fatima’s wealth was a result of her father having only two daughters to leave his riches to, and Fatima’s husband and father died shortly after her wedding. However, we know little else about their lives. A fire in 1323 destroyed most of the records that could tell us more about her life.

It appears Fatima El-Fihriya’s goal was to make Morocco an educational hub, which she did. In fact (while it’s disputed), she likely influenced the future of educational institutions around the world.

Al-Qarawiyyin offered many courses on the Qur’an, but eventually expanded to include the study of medicine, grammar, mathematics, music, and astronomy. It drew intellectuals from all over the world.

Once accessible only to academics, the library is now open to the public thanks to a full renovation Canadian-Moroccan architect Aziza Chaouni began in 2012 and finished in 2017.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “The Fascinating History of the World’s Oldest Library; Al-Qarawiyyin Library and University, Fez” – Odyssey Traveler

WTF Fun Fact 12707 – The Role Of Goats In Argan Oil

Maybe you’ve heard of argan oil. It’s very trendy in skin and hair products and the oil is quite expensive. It comes from the nuts of Argania trees, which are found in Morocco.

But argan oil isn’t so easily harvested from these nuts. In order to make the oil easier to harvest, you generally have to wait for the nut to pass through the digestive tract of a local mountain goat first. So, yes, what we mean here is that the nuts are eaten by goats, softened by their digestive tracts, pooped out, and THEN gathered by people for creating argan oil.

Of course, there are other ways of harvesting (humans doing the hard work of peeling them) and you’ll find many companies insisting that their argan oil comes from goat-free nuts. In those cases, the goats end up being a nuisance (and all because people are squeamish).

But frankly, it’s hard to know for sure how the nuts get into human hands. And it doesn’t really matter since the oil has no traces of goat poop in it by the time it gets to you.

The other fascinating thing about the mountain goats that helped launch the argan oil industry is that they became talented tree climbers precisely because the Argania trees bear fruit. There’s not much fruit on the ground in Morocco for goats, especially in summer. Once the goats eat all the low-hanging fruit, they have no other choice than to head upward.

While there are other goats around the world that climb trees, many of the pictures we see of multiple goats in trees are probably Moroccan mountain goats getting their fruity dinners.

And because they’re goats, they end up eating the nuts as well. Since they can’t digest those, the nuts end up on the ground later on (via poop mostly, but some goats will spit them out after trying to chew them). – WTF fun facts

Source: “Tree goats” — CBS News

WTF Fun Fact #12391 – A Desert Marathon Disaster

A 39-year-old former Italian police officer Mauro Prosperi decided to run in the 1994 Marathon des Sables. The 6-day race requires a 155-mile run through the Sahara Desert, but the former Olympic pentathlete felt up to the challenge.

However, a sandstorm hit the runners, and Prosperi got lost in the desert for 10 days. He survived by eating small animals such as lizards, drinking bat blood and his own urine, and covering himself in the sand at night to stay warm.

Fearing he would be declared missing and his wife wouldn’t be able to claim his life insurance for 10 years unless his body was found, he tried to cut his wrists. However, he was so dehydrated that his blood clotted immediately and he lived.

Telling his story to BBC News in 2014, he said: “My wife, Cinzia, thought I was insane – the race is so risky that you have to sign a form to say where you want your body to be sent in case you die. We had three children under the age of eight, so she was worried. I tried to reassure her. “The worst that can happen is that I get a bit sunburned.”

The race has changed since the debacle.

“These days the Marathon des Sables is a very different experience, with up to 1,300 participants it’s like a giant snake – you couldn’t get lost if you tried. But back in 1994, there were only 80 of us, and very few who were actually running, so most of the time I was on my own,” Prosperi said.

– WTF Fun Facts

Source: How I drank urine and bat blood to survive — BBC News