|Dome of the Rock
The first work of Islamic architecture and one of the monuments of world civilization, the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem was ordered by the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik in 692. It stands over a rocky outcrop, variously identified as the place of Adam's burial, Abraham's sacrifice, the Holy of Holies of the ancient Jewish temple, and Muhammad's night journey. The glory of the building is the interior decoration in millions of tiny cubes of colored and gilded glass mosaic, the most lavish program of mosaics to survive from ancient or medieval times anywhere.
|Mosque of Ibn Tulun
The Mosque of Ibn Tulun in Cairo, commissioned by the Abbasid governor of the city in 879, represents the standard type of congregational mosque used in early Islamic times, in which the roof is carried by many single supports. The hypostyle plan, the open space surrounding the mosque, the piers and plaster decoration, and the spiral minaret copy the style perfected at the Abbasid capital of Samarra in Iraq, but the square proportion is an adaptation to local taste.
|Mosque of Damascus
The Great Mosque of Damascus, ordered by the Umayyad caliph al-Walid in 705 on the site of a Roman temple, which the Byzantines had turned into a church, shows the wealth and sophistication of the early Muslim rulers. The focal point of the mosque is its magnificent courtyard, lavishly decorated with marble plaques and glass mosaics, including a large wall panel showing a paradisiacal landscape of a river flowing beneath fantastic houses and pavilions separated by trees. On the south, or qibla, side of the courtyard is a covered prayer hall, with massive stone columns and piers supporting a gabled roof.
|The Alhambra in Granada
The Alhambra in Granada is the best surviving example of a medieval Islamic palace. Founded as a fortress in the ninth century, it was enlarged by the Nasrids (r. 1232-1492), the last Muslim rulers in Spain, until it became a veritable city in itself, containing palaces, mosques, baths, tombs, gardens, and quarters for artisans. The enclosing walls and towers are a distinctive reddish tone that has given the complex its name, the Alhambra, from the Arabic word for "red."
|Mosque of Shaykh Lutfallah
The Mosque of Shaykh Lutfallah, built between 1603 and 1619 in the Safavid's new capital of Isfahan, represents the type of small, single-room mosque used for daily prayer throughout the Islamic lands. Its glory is its decoration in tile mosaic, and the interior is probably the most perfectly balanced space in Persian architecture.