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13. Pyxis, Cordova, Spain, 950-75 AD, Metropolitan Museum of Art.Tree of life composition

Biomorphic patterns in Islamic art – Tracing the origin

Islamic biomorphic patterns are usually called arabesques. The term ‘arabesque’ is relatively new; it came to Europe after Napoleon’s campaign in Africa. “In a broad sense of this term, the arabesque includes ornamentation…

The Khwaju Bridge, from Pascal Coste,  Les Monuments modernes de la Perse (1867) . The central feature, set on a wider footing, helped the bridge to resist the pressure of the water.

Bridges of Isfahan

Isfahan grew up next to the Zayandeh Rud, which feeds the oasis where people had first settled in prehistoric times. To carry the line of the Chahar Bagh across the river, Shah ‘Abbas…

Details of muqarnas corbel under the balcony, Qutub Minar

Qutb Minar Complex, Delhi

The Qutb complex (Hindi: क़ुतुब परिसर, Urdu: قطب پرِسر), also spelled Qutab or Qutub, is an array of monuments and buildings at Mehrauli in Delhi, India. The construction of Qutb Minar was intended…

Cordoba (Spain), Prayer hall of the Great Mosque

Al-Andalus: The Orient in the West

In 711 the Arabs (in the Iberian Peninsula, “Arab” and “Muslim” are synonyms) arrived in the western-most territory of Mediterranean Europe. Within a short time, after very few battles and some sieges that were nearly all solved through negotiations, the Arabs provoked the collapse of the Visigothic Kingdom of Toledo, and incorporated what has since then been known as al-Andalus, the political territory under Muslim Arab dominance, into dar al-Islam.

Map of the Masjid al-Haram. Probably the Hijaz (Arabia), 18th century.

Pilgrimage and Prayer

Written by Sheila Canby Description of objects written by Aimee Froom (‘The Path of Princes: Masterpieces from the Aga Khan Museum Collection’, published in 2008). Pilgrimage to Mecca, or hajj, plays an important role…

New Coins

Coins of Abd al-Malik

These two dinar coins sum up one of the greatest political and religious upheavals ever – the permanent transformation of the Middle East in the years following the death of the Prophet Muhammad….

The House of Wisdom Baghdad

From Cuneiform to Topkapi

In the Islamic world, where reading and literacy have always been highly prized for the access they provide to the word of God and the world of knowledge, books were objects of both…

Science and Islam – a BBC documentary

Science and Islam – a BBC documentary

Physicist Jim Al-Khalili travels through Syria, Iran, Tunisia and Spain to tell the story of the great leap in scientific knowledge that took place in the Islamic world between the 8th and 14th…

Science in Islam – the forgotten brilliance

Islamic science was in its prime during the European Middle Ages, between the 9th and the 13th centuries, particularly in the brilliant period of the Abbasid caliphate from the 9th century to the…

Cairo, street and mosque near the citadel. Count Atnadeo Preziosi,C1850

Domestic Culture of Cities in the Middle East (16th to 19th century)

This article invites the reader to enter and enjoy wealthy urban homes in Turkey, Egypt and Iran between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. This was a period of flourishing traditional culture and also of…

"The Mosque of Wuzeer Ulee Khan," published by the Illustrated London News, 1858; click on the image for a large scan

Reading Masjid Wazir Khan

Wazir Khan’s Mosque, in the heart of the Walled City of Lahore, is one of the most thoroughly documented and discussed of our monuments. In 1887, Kipling (John Lockwood, father of Rudyard) discussed…

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal – Refined Elegance

The Taj Mahal: Symbol of India, architectural jewel, and monument to a grand passion. We take a closer look at the Taj Mahal and revisit its history – why it was built and…

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