Any link between the old quarter of the Croatian city of Dubrovnik and the Moroccan Medina of Fez, other than they are both walled cities, may be tenuous, but a fascinating snippet of information suggests that they do share more than architecture.
|The narrow streets of Dubrovnik have much in common with Fez|
"Already in 1571 Dubrovnik sold its protectorate over some Christian settlements in other parts of the Ottoman Empire to France and Venice. At that time there was also a colony of Dubrovnik in Fes in Morocco."That quote appears in a number of documents but, sadly, none of them cite the source of the information. It is an intriguing historical possibility and one that we have so far failed to verify.
Today situated in southernmost modern Croatia, the Republic of Ragusa (in Croatian Dubrovačka Republika), from 1358 to 1808 was a maritime republic centered on the city of Dubrovnik (Ragusa in Italian and Latin) in Dalmatia. It reached its commercial peak in the 15th and the 16th centuries, under the protection of the Ottoman Empire, before being conquered by Napoleon Bonaparte's French Empire in 1808.
|Like Fez, Dubrovnik is now World Heritage listed|
It may be that the word "colony" is misleading and it should be "protectorate". In 1571 the bishop of Dubrovnik was a Cardinal protector of small Christian communities. Cardinal protectors existed in only 16 other countries in 1571, namely in France, Spain, Austria, Portugal, Poland, England, Scotland, Ireland, Naples, Sicily, Sardinia, Savoy, Lucca, Greece, Illyria, Armenia and Lebanon. So it is possible that he also oversaw a "colony" of traders in Fez.
It is certainly true that the Arab world knew about Dubrovnik. In the 11th century, Dubrovnik and the surrounding area were described in the work of the famous Arab geographer Muhammad al-Idrisi. In his book he says of Dubrovnik "Nuzhat al-Mushataq fi ikhtiraq al-afaq" - "joy for those who wish to sail over the world "- and says Dubrovnik is the southernmost city of "the country of Croatia and Dalmatia". The big question is how much did the traders of Dubrovnik know about Fez and did they truly have a "colony" in Fez?
Hopefully one of our readers has a passion for historical detective work and can help us unravel the mystery.