Borj Nord

Fès, Morocco

Borj Nord

Borj Nord or Burj al-Shamal (Arabic: برج الشمال), Al-Burj ash-Shamali (Arabic: البرج الشمالي) is a fort in the city of Fez, Morocco. It was first established in 1582 by the Saadi dynasty, modeled after the Portuguese forts in the 16th century. It is among the largest defense structures around the city of Fez and one of the few to incorporate European-style changes in military architecture in the gunpowder age. Today, the fort is open to public as the Museum of Arms.

The fort was built in 1582 by the powerful Saadi sultan Ahmad al-Mansour. The Saadians, whose capital was Marrakesh, had faced notable resistance to their rule in Fez and the fort is one of several that they built around the city. They were intended to keep the restless population of Fes el-Bali (the old city) under control as much as to actually defend the city from external attacks. Accordingly, the forts were built in commanding positions overlooking the city, from which their canons could easily bombard the city if desired. Along with Borj Nord, the other forts built at this time were: Borj Sud, facing Borj Nord across the valley on a hilltop overlooking Fez from the south; Kasbah Tamdert, a citadel guarding Bab Ftouh to the south-east; and the Borj Sheikh Ahmed, one of three bastions built along the east and south walls of Fes el-Jdid and the one closest to Fes el-Bali. The Saadians built Borj Nord, Borj Sud, and the new bastions of Fes el-Jdid to emulate Portuguese military architecture; a consequence of their wars to oust the Portuguese from Morocco. Their construction was probably helped by the labour and expertise of European prisoners captured in the famous Battle of the Three Kings in 1578. These are the first and arguably only fortresses in Fez designed for the new age of gunpowder.

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