Michel presents his material on "parent night"

Michel's clay model of a mosque
Gilded Serpent presents...
Islamic Architecture
by Michel Harris
7th Grade World History

Many of you have heard of, seen, or maybe you have even  visited a famous Islamic building and know the beauty of the architecture that such buildings feature. Some of the most famous buildings in the world are of Islamic design. For example: the Taj Mahal in India is an elaborate tomb that a heartbroken prince built for his lovely wife who died giving birth to the last of her many children. Additionally, the Taj Mahal is a mosque; the Alhambra in Spain is a Muslim palace that was built when the Moors (whom the Spanish called Muslims) controlled southern Spain. The palace has a very plain exterior, but the interior earned it its recognition. From beautiful tiles to the elaborate gardens, this castle has it all!  The Hagia Sophia, located in Istanbul, is an enormous mosque with a heavenly dome and four towering minarets, and the Byzantines built it in the year 530 — over a temple that was Roman originally.

Inside a fortified Muslim town called a "ksour", many people live in single-family dwellings called "kasbahs" but the term may also be used to indicate a keep (main defensive structure of a town). 

Many ancient Muslim buildings are still standing today, and they continue to affect designs in other places in the world.  Oil wealth, along with social and political change, has threatened Islamic culture and traditions. Therefore, many Muslim planners and architects are reacting to this invasion of Western culture by reasserting their Islamic heritage.

 Almost all Muslim buildings share a few specific things in common:

  • emphasis on community,
  • a spacious interior,
  • dramatic gateway  (Bab),
  • an enclosed courtyard with a water feature,
  • rooms arranged symmetrically around a courtyard,
  • defensive walls,
  • and often a plain exterior (compared to the interior).
  • Ornamentation often consists of religious calligraphy because Islamic art had no representations of God’s creations.
  • Iron work is commonly used for window grills and other openings.
  • Additionally, Muslim architects popularized and improved on the dome and arch (originally engineered by Romans).

A model by another 7th grader of a hammam or public bath

The mosque is central to the Arabic community. Almost all mosques have a dome, minaret (sahn) or courtyard. A Minrab is a nitch in the wall facing Mecca. A fountain or water feature is  necessary to do the ritual washing, and Muslims believe that if you are not clean when you pray, the praying is useless. A minbar is to the right of the minrab and is a pulpit for the Imam to read the Koran. Mederasa are schools for theology and law and are often near the mosque.

Hassan Fat'hy Rifat, Chadirji, Basil Al-Bayyati, and Abdel Wahed El Wakil are just a few examples of great Islamic architects.

1. Martin, Gary. The Future of Islamic Architecture.
2. Hoag ,John. Islamic Architecture.  September 1, 2003
3. Stewart, Desmond. Early Islam, Canada: TimeLife books, 1967.
4. Stannard, Dorothy.
Insight Guides-Morocco Singapore: APA publications,1998.
5. Danby, Miles Moorish Style. London: Phaidon press,1995
6. Thubron,Colin Great Cities-Istanbul, Nederland: Time Life Books,1978.
7. Thubron, Colin Great Cities-Jerusalem, Nederland: Time Life Books,1976.
8. Clark, Malcolm PhD. Islam for Dummies. Indianapolis: Wiley Publishing. Inc, 2003.

We are hoping that Michel's class mates will also share with us their reports on Islamic holidays, The 5 pillars, and other topics within their studies of Islam in the Middle Ages.

Have a comment? Send us a letter!
Check the "Letters to the Editor" for other possible viewpoints!

Michel and Dylan await there turn as other team members present their reports to the parents.

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