In the spirit of International Women's Day, which is celebrated on March 8, here's a fun fact you probably haven't heard of: the world's oldest-standing university was founded by a woman ... a Muslim woman, actually.
In 859, Fatima al-Fihri established the University of Al-Qarawiyyin in Morocco, which is not only the longest-standing university, but also the oldest existing educational institution in the world.
Al-Qarawiyyin is the "oldest existing and continually operating educational institution in the world", according to Guinness World Records.
The university's library is also the world's oldest library.
Here's a closer look at the University of Al-Qarawiyyin, the oldest continuously-operating degree-granting university in the world:
Fatima al-Fihri, an educated Muslim, spent her inheritance to build Al Qarawiyyin
Al-Fihri founded the University of Al-Qarawiyyin in the Moroccan city of Fes, as a community mosque with an associated school, after her family moved from Al-Qayrawan in Tunisia. She was reportedly a well-educated and devoted Muslim.
Since its establishment, the mosque hosted lectures by reputed Muslim scholars from abroad.
The complex gradually grew to become a university by the 10th century.
The university became a leading center in the Muslim world
Al-Qarawiyyin grew to become one of the leading spiritual and educational centers in the Muslim world, attracting scholars and students from various locations. It expanded its course offering to include educational subjects apart from religious teachings, including natural sciences, medicine, mathematics and music.
Admittance into the university was in high demand, and the university applied a vigorous acceptance system.
Many high-profile Muslim and non-Muslim scholars attended the university
According to Muslim Heritage, prominent Jewish philosopher Ibn Maymun, commonly known as Maimonides, as well as French scholar Pope Sylvester II studied at Al-Qarawiyyin.
Prominent scholars such as historian Ibn Khaldun and astronomer Nur ad-Din al-Bitruji are said to have all taught at the university.
The Al-Qarawiyyin library was recently restored
Last summer, the university's library was restored and unveiled to the public, thanks to Canadian-Moroccan architect Aziza Chaouni. Prior to its restoration, the library was reserved for academics and theologians.
According to the Associated Press, the library includes thousands of rare books and ancient Arabic manuscripts written by prominent scholars, with Quranic manuscripts dating back to the 9th century.