What is a Zawiya?

Zawiya is a Maghrebi and West African term for an Islamic religious school or monastery, founded and overseen by sacred Islamic scholars, roughly corresponding to the Eastern term “madrassa”. Zawiya can also be spelled as zawouia, zawiyah, zaouiya, zaouïa, or zwaya.

In Arabic (زاوية), Zawiya means ‘corner’ – literally, such as the corner of a building, or figuratively, such as the corner or unique part of a place or location.

In Morocco, there is a traditional saying that one might say to a friend who is experiencing a challenging time. “Take the corner.” The meaning is to go to a quiet place away from the world where one can reflect and contemplate and find solace. Rural Moroccan zawiyas are typically places with severe natural beauty and an abundance of natural resources – especially water.

Photo: Zawiya Ahansal is blessed with natural resources.