Islamic designs, architecture & calligraphy

Posted on February 23, 2014 by Toothpicker There have been 2 comment(s)

The last entry on Andalusia is about Islamic designs and calligraphy.

My fascination with the Middle East began when I was kid, thanks to the Japanese cartoon: 'The adventures of Sinbad'. Over the years, I have traveled to several Muslim countries in the Middle East and North Africa; although the experiences varied each time, my interest in the Islamic arts, designs and architecture has not diminished. This was one of the reasons for choosing Andalusia as my holiday destination; besides, with the unstable situation in the Middle East, Spain seemed like a safer option.


Mosque cordobagranada P1060905real alcazar sevillereal alcazar seville real alcazar seville

Top main: The Great Mosque, Cordoba; 2nd row right, 3rd row & last row right: Real Alcazar, Seville; Last row left: Cathedral, Seville


Islamic art and design is based on its religious belief, values, culture and its advance knowledge on mathematics. Due to religious reasons, humans or animals are prohibited in religious art and design, thus ornament became its central theme. Almost opposite to the minimalist style, Islamic designs are often colourful, complex and made up of repetitive patterns. Geometric patterns, vegetal patterns (i.e. arabesque) and calligraphy are the three non-figural types of decoration in Islamic art and design. These decorative arts and designs are often accompanied by traditional craftsmanship; and in Andalusia, the best examples can be seen at the Real Alcazar in Seville, The Great Mosque in Cordoba and The Alhambra in Granada.


Tiles, mosaics, arches (esp. horseshoe), columns and domes are common features in Islamic architecture. But since the use of costly materials is discouraged in the religion, brick, brass, clay, stucco, stone, and wood are used skillfully to create exquisite features and design in Islamic architecture. The architectural motifs are often octagonal or star-shaped and they can be seen on floors, roofs, walls and fountains.



P1070222 P1070207 P1060925P1070867P1060931real alcazarP1080169cordoba mosque arab bath

Main & 2nd row left: Palacio de Pilatos, Seville; 2nd row right & 3rd row middle & right: Real Alacazar, Seville; 3rd row left: Alhambra, Granada; 4th row: Palacio de la Madraza; Last row left: Great Mosque, Cordoba; Last row right: Arab bath, Granada


The use of the symmetrical and geometric systems create harmony in Islamic designs and architecture, which is consistent with the Islamic belief that all creation is harmoniously interrelated. And this is most evident in the designs of doors and windows, where balance and symmetry is an important feature.

Doors and windows:


P1070875P1070187P1060886P1070306IMG_5554IMG_5687cordobaP1060906cordoba mosque



Since I started learning Arabic calligraphy about 18 months ago, I became more aware of the use of calligraphy in Islamic art, design and architecture. There are many types of scripts, I started with the simple Ruqʿah, then moved onto the more cursive and elegant Diwani, and will be learning Naskh next. However, I am most interested in Kufic, a more constructed and squarish/ geometric style that is often used and seen in mosques and palaces. Most of these scripts are quotations from the Koran ( something I have been practising lately), and they are so well incorporated into the overall designs that they seldom would look out of place.


real alcazar seville P1070919P1060811alhambraP1070877real alcazar seville P1070890real alcazar seville P1070896


Arabic calligraphy books are hard to find in the U.K., and the ones on sale are usually fairly basic. In Andalusia, I was quite glad to see many books on the topic, though they are mostly written in French. However, I was still excited to see calligraphy widely used in architecture and displayed in Muslim institutions.

When I started learning calligraphy, I appreciated it as an art form and as a meditative activity; now I realised the importance of understanding the religion, language and culture behind this artistic expression. I doubt I will ever get a grasp of the language, but I hope to continue to learn more and practise this beautiful art form.


arabic calligraphyarabic calligraphyislamic calligraphyarabic calligraphy arabic calligraphy

Top row: beautiful contemporary Arabic calligraphy work inside an Islamic centre in Granada; Bottom left: Calligraphy on tiles inside the Cathedral in Seville; Bottom right: Books on Arabic calligraphy


This post was posted in Architecture, Travel, Calligraphy, Traditional arts & crafts, Andalusia, Islamic design, Design and was tagged with Arabic calligraphy, Andalusia, Islamic design, Islamic architecture, Spain

2 Responses to Islamic designs, architecture & calligraphy

  • Hello
    My name is Rahim Karimzadeh . I m 41 years old . I live in iran . I’ m an artist and I’ve continuously had activity in the field of “ Iranian Islamic Decorative Art “ , Since 22 years ago especially carpet designing . I’d like to work with you in the field of carpet designing . Would you please help me to do that .
    Thank you very much .
    Rahim Karimzadeh

    Posted on March 2, 2015 at 8:28 pm

  • Hi Rahim, thank you for your comment and interest in collaborating with me. I am not sure how we can work together, but you can email me and we can discuss it in more detail. Thank you.

    Posted on March 2, 2015 at 11:40 pm