Armand Point and Islamic Architecture

Glossary

Some useful words to use when you are looking at Islamic architecture and design: 
 
A Mosque, or Masjid, is a place for Muslims to pray, study and meet together. It can be an ordinary house or converted building, or purpose-built with traditional features like a minaret and dome.
 
Inside the mosque, a niche in one wall, the Mihrab , indicates the direction of Mecca. Muslims around the world face the direction of Mecca when they pray. 
 
A Minaret is a tall tower connected to a mosque, from which the call to prayer is given. 
 
An arch is a curved structure which spans an open space, and can support weight, for example in a doorway or window. In Islamic architecture you will often find the horseshoe arch, where the broadest part of the arch is wider than the space between the two supporting columns, and the ogee arch which is pointed and flattened, like two intersecting S-shapes. 
 
A dome is a curved roof structure, with no angles or corners, which encloses a large amount of space without the help of a single column. They are very strong structures, usually in the shape of a hemisphere and sometimes in a bulbous, pointed 'onion' shape.
Moorish - this word relates to the Moors, who were medieval muslim inhabitants of al-Andalus (now Spain and Portugal) and the Maghreb region (North Africa). They left architecture of great importance, including the Great Mosque in Cordoba and the Alhambra in Granada (both in Spain).
 
The exterior facade of a courtyard house means the outside walls, which are usually bare, with only a few upper windows facing the street. This gives privacy and insulates the house from heat and dust. 
 
An open courtyard is the space around which the rooms of the courtyard house are organised. The courtyard is usually a place for shade and has a source of water to provide humidity. It is the family gathering place that is protected from the eyes of outsiders. 
 
An iwan is a covered, semi-room which opens onto the courtyard. It provides a completely shaded area with good ventilation.
 
Openings on the upper floors, such as balconies and windows, are usually covered by a mashrabiyeh, a lattice screen made of small wooden rods, which break up the glaring light, and allow the women of the family to look out without being seen from the street. 
 
Roofs on courtyard houses are usually flat and can be used for sleeping in the hottest months. 
 
The doorway is often the only decorated element of the house's exterior. It marks the boundary between the public and private world. Doorways opening onto the street rarely face each other, and entrances are L-shaped to prevent any direct views into the house. 
 
When you are exploring a building you may find typical Islamic decorative features, including:
  • Use of geometric shapes and repetitive pattern, perhaps in ceramic tiled walls and floors.
  • Use of decorative Islamic calligraphy.
  • Use of symmetry.
  • Fountains.
  • Bright colour.
  • Focus on the interior rather than the exterior.



 
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