Islamic Heritage

Islamic Architecture is a process that has been observed and progressed over the years, tangible traces of culture so diverse,and rich in its expression each line and curve  represented  geometrically. Intricacy in the bedecked walls of each structure is a praise to the historical magnitude of the presence of these empires.

 

Islamic Architecture is essentially defined by mosques, tombs, fortresses, residences, and geometric gardens, each carrying key elements of recognition to assimilate into this beautiful style. Apart from the structural integrity concerning site context, the elaborate details in the interiors consisting of beautiful floral filigree, metal inlays, etchings of scriptures, painted mosaics, and sculptural art, are a defining characteristic of the Islamic designs.

10 UNESCO Heritage Islamic Structures in the world

1. DOME OF THE ROCK (Al- Aqsa)

Dome of the Rock is one of the oldest extant works of Islamic Architecture. Built by the 7th century Umayyad Caliph, this monument rests over a large rock sacred to both Muslims and Jews.

 

The Prophet Muhammad(PBUH) is believed to have ascended into heaven from the site. In Jewish tradition, it is here that Abraham, the first patriarch of the Hebrew people, is said to have prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac. The structure, detailing and architecture signals to Early Byzantine techniques but the dome and the monument’s overall appearance alludes to the emergence of the Islamic style of architecture.

 

The gilded wooden Dome of 20m diameter rests on an elevated circular drum supported by 16 piers and columns, surrounding which is an octagonal arcade of 24

piers and columns. The interiors of this shrine are decked with marble mosaics and metal plaques. It is one of the few starting points of Islamic architecture that flourished in the coming years.

2. AL-HAMBRA

Alhambra is an emblem of the vestigial centuries of the Muslim rule in Spain. The structure, with the name meaning ‘The Red One’ was constructed on remains of old Roman fortifications in AD 889, reconstructed by the Nasrid Dynasty in the mid-thirteenth century.

 

The palace buildings of reddish-ochre bricks were designed to be quadrangular, looking inwards to a courtyard. More quadrangles were added to the grounds with each Muslim ruler that lived in Alhambra, all opening into inner courtyards connected to other quadrangles via small rooms and passages. Column arcades and reflecting pools embellished the grandeur of the spaces.

 

While Islamic in origin, the Alhambra acquired many cultural attributions throughout the ages and was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

3. HAGIA SOPHIA

The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul(Turkey) is an architectural marvel, a reflection of Byzantine and Ottoman civilizations, initially used as a church for 900 years, later as a mosque for the next 500, and now as a museum.

 

The vast interiors of the Hagia Sophia are punctuated by the large dome that rises to a height of 55.6m while resting on an arcade of arched windows. This dome is flanked on either side by two half-domes which create an oblong layout. The exterior stucco work tinted red and yellow is a subdued contrast to the purple porphyry, polychrome marbles in green and white, with gold mosaics.

 

The Hagia Sophia stupefies every visitor with its thoughtful engineering and historical beauty.

4. SULEYMANIYE MOSQUE

The Suleymaniye Mosque was a masterpiece envisioned by the Imperial architect Mimar Sinan. The Mosque followed in the footsteps of the Hagia Sophia, although in smaller dimensions. The entrance to the mosque is preceded by a courtyard displaying a central fountain. This courtyard is wrapped by a colonnaded peristyle of marble, graphite, and porphyry.

 

The interiors of the Mosque were enhanced by stained glass windows and rectangular tiles around the mihrab. A large, beautiful chandelier hangs in the center of the large dome and punctuates the oblong interior chamber with a grand focal point.

 

The Suleymaniye Mosque was incorporated in the UNESCO World Heritage list as a part of the Historic Areas of Istanbul, Turkey.

5. SULTAN AHMED MOSQUE

The Sultan Ahmed Mosque, also known as the Blue Mosque, sits next to the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul. Islamic Architecture of Istanbul reached its apogee with the Blue Mosque. It was larger and a synthesized version of Mimar Sinan’s masterpieces. Comprising five full domes, six minarets, and a total of 8 semi-domes, the Blue Mosque incorporates its parent Byzantine styles with a blend of traditional Islamic elements and is considered the last great mosque of the Classical period.

 

The interior of the Blue Mosque is hand-painted blue towards the upper part. 200 stained glass windows puncture the structure and beautiful tiles line the lower levels, with hand-painted tulip designs.

 

The Blue Mosque is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as a part of the larger Historical Area of Istanbul, Turkey.

6.GREAT MOSQUE OF CORDOBA

Residing on the original site of a church, the Mosque of Cordoba in Spain was constructed and expanded by the Umayyads. The rectangular site consists of a courtyard with a fountain in the middle, distinctive of Islamic design. A colonnaded walkway surrounds this courtyard. The gardens are vegetated with orange trees and other flora.

The most exemplary feature of the Mosque of Cordoba is the hypostyle hall which comprises approximately 850 columns, all clad and decorated with porphyry, jasper, and spanned by marble horseshoe arches.

This hall imposes on a visitor the impression of infinitely endless space, enunciated by rows of columns and arches. The mosque also houses a minaret which is now cloaked with a square tapering bell-tower. The phasing of the Christian history of the site into an Islamic icon of architecture is seen in this Mosque.

7.TAJ MAHAL

The elegant mausoleum of white marble in Agra, India, is emblematic of Shah Jahan and his wife Mumtaz Mahal’s love. The Taj Mahal took 16 years to construct, under the guidance of architect Ustad Ahmad Lahauri. The gardens welcome visitors with the refined geometry of the Charbagh style, divided in the middle by sheets of water that act as a reflecting pool.

 

The facades of the tomb structure were decorated with delicate inlaid work and inscriptions from the Quran. The structure rests on a marble plinth, at the four corners of which rise slender minarets, each crowned with a single chhatri.

 

The large central hall is octagonal and resting in the middle are the sepulchers of Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. The three large arches, save for the one on the Southern façade, are sealed with beautiful perforated marble screens. The Taj Mahal’s beauty and symbolism captured worldwide attention and was declared to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.

8.SANAA

The mildly camouflaged city of Sana’a in Yemen appears to belong to the earth, born from the ground, like a natural landform.

 

Its many-storied buildings represent a response to providing spacious quarters for the number of residents within defensible city walls. The buildings demonstrate exceptional craftsmanship in the use of local materials and techniques.

 

The structures of the city, made of ochre-colored rammed earth and burnt bricks on stone rise tall, and their facades are peppered with punctures ornate by White-Gypsum. While each opening in a building offers similarities of color, patterns on windows, shape, alignment, positioning, and size, each opening is different from the other.

9.GREAT MOSQUE OF SAMARRA

A spiraling mass of sandstone bricks towers over the city of Samarra, Iraq, the remains of the Great Mosque of Samarra. This minaret adjacent to the rectangular ruins of the mosque finds its influence from Mesopotamian ziggurats extrapolated into Islamic architecture. Commissioned in the 9th Century CE by the Abbasid Caliph, the mosque with the Malwiya tower (spiral minaret) was once the largest mosque ever made.

 

The minaret has an unusual conical, spiral, and tapering form. This minaret was connected to the mosque structure by a bridge. Now partially damaged as a result of being exposed to modern machinery, it stands at a height of 52m, with a 33m base.

 

The Mosque and its minaret were declared as Heritage structures by UNESCO for their uncommon architectural style and presence in the world.

10.JAMEH MOSQUE OF ISFAHAN

The Jameh Mosque of Isfahan is one of the oldest mosques of Iran. It is also the first Islamic building that adapted the four courtyard layout of Sassanid Places to Islamic Architecture by way of Four-Iwans or elaborate arches that act as entrances. These Iwans open into the courtyard in the middle. Each of the Iwan facades is adorned with vibrant blue, green, turquoise, red, and cream motifs and arabesques.

 

The urban character of Isfahan and the souks outside have hence worked in tandem with the heritage of the Jameh Mosque. It was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2012 owing to its influential role in the evolution of Islamic Architecture.

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