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Cotton in the Art of Islam

Cotton in the Art of Islam

A long, soft fiber covering the seeds of the cotton plant. Temperate to hot climates are suitable for its cultivation. Cotton is cheap to harvest and there are no problems with its transportation because the fiber is packed in compact bales.

Cotton first became cultivated in India, Ethiopia, and Sudan, and later spread to Egypt, China, North America, western Central Asia, and other countries. It is a versatile material that makes lightweight but durable fabrics such as batiste and muslin. In combination with other fibers, it is used to make bedspreads, rugs and other heavy and dense fabrics.

Cotton is easily dyed and patterned. Cotton is first mentioned in the text of the prism of Sinacherib, created around 705-681 B.C., but it did not become valuable until the middle of the seventh century A.D. after the rise of Islam. In the first century A.D. cotton was imported to the Middle East and North Africa, after which it began to be traded in Spain and later throughout Europe.

Works created in this technique
Works created in this technique

ISLAMIC (MUSLIM) ART

ISLAMIC (MUSLIM) ART – art developed by the peoples of the Near and Middle East during the Middle Ages on the basis of the cultural traditions of the area and the principles of Islam.

The inclusion in the Arab Caliphate of vast territories from the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa in the west and to the Indus and Syr Darya in the east, conquered by the Arab Muslims in the 7th and 8th centuries, was an important historical event of the early Middle Ages. Having gone beyond the Arabian Peninsula, the Arabs, in the course of their conquests (futuh), encountered the culture of neighboring countries. In doing so, the traditions of ancient Greece and Rome and Byzantium merged in the Arab Caliphate with the Iranian culture of the Sassanid era, the early Christian culture of the Copts of Egypt, and the pre-Islamic culture of the Arabs. This cross-cultural contact set the stage for the development of new aesthetic canons. Such a close interweaving of traditions, skills, and scientific knowledge had an extremely beneficial effect on the creative thought of the masters of the Islamic world. In a short time positive shifts in almost all areas of life became noticeable: poetry, philosophy, history and historiography, medicine and pharmacy, mathematics, astronomy, geography, and various kinds of art.

From the very beginning, the art of Muslim countries was distinctive for its identity, which was associated with ethnic culture. However, the Islamization that swept across the space developed general principles that became binding on all corners of the Muslim world.

Islam is believed to prohibit the depiction of living beings, primarily human beings. However, this prohibition has never been doctrinally fixed, for it dates back to earlier taboos on the depiction of deities common in the Middle East. However, in Iran, where, even before Islam came here, there was a tradition of depicting scenes from the lives of rulers in miniature, wall paintings, and carpet weaving, this prohibition was never total. Over time, the rejection of this prohibition (with some exceptions) began to manifest itself in Arab culture as well.

CALLIGRAPHY

(khatt or hutut – Arabic) holds a special place in the art of Islam. Arabic calligraphy originally originated from copying the Koran, which is considered to be the creation of Allah, therefore the written word itself acquired a sacral meaning.

As Qazi-Ahmed ibn Mirmunshi al-Hussein of the 16th century wrote in his Treatise on Calligraphers and Artists, “the mystic attitude towards the written word in the Muslim East created an act of transcribing the Qur’an, which was closely connected with the religious dogma of forgiveness of sins”. Indeed, many rulers took a vow to make a copy of the Qur’an and for this purpose mastered the basics of calligraphy.

At first, the Arabs used the hijazi style, which retained the cuneiform writing style with right angles. Gradually new scripts began to be developed, most of which were variations of the “magnificent six”, the six scripts recognized as canonical. They are Naskh, Muhakkak, Suls, Rikaa, Rayhani, Tawki. Each handwriting was used in different spheres. For instance, Diwani was used for diplomatic documents, Rikaa was used in everyday life, Nastaliq script was used for Koranic commentaries and Kufi (derived from hijazi) is still used (in different variants) in architecture and decorative art. Each of these scripts depended on the time, place and the master calligrapher. The color of ink was also important. It is known that some calligraphers, having made the ink, tied the vessel with the ink on the neck of a camel traveling to Mecca. It was believed that the copies of the Koran should be made with this ink. Calligraphy was treated as an exact science; the height of the vertical letters and the length of the word on a line were calculated. The rhombus that formed when a slanting kalam (reed stick) was pressed against the paper was taken as the yardstick. Thus, a letter had to make two or three rhombuses, depending on one’s handwriting.

The masters made intricate calligrams using the most popular Koran fragments. Sometimes these calligrams consisted of two parts, each of which mirrored a fragment of the text.

The most famous calligraphers come from different parts of the Arab-Muslim world: Khalid ibn al-Hayyaj, al-Farahidi (8th century), al-Dahak, al-Ishaq, Ahmed al-Kalbi, Ibrahim and Yusuf al-Sharaj, Ahwal al-Mukharrir (9th century), and Abu-Al-Mukhari (18th century). Abu Ali Muhammad ibn-Ali ibn Muqla, Ibrahim al-Suli (10th century), Abu l-Hasan Ali Ibn al-Bawwab (11th century), Yakut al-Mustasimi (13th century), al-Kalkashandi (15th century), and others. Women were also among the calligraphers: Fatima al-Baghdadi and Shuhda bint al-Abnari (12th century). But Ya’quat al-Mustasimi (1203-1298) was acknowledged as the finest of calligraphers. He developed a system of calligraphic styles, taking the six most famous ones as a base, taking into consideration the proportions of each letter, and developed a method of teaching the secrets of calligraphy.

With the spread of the book in the Moslem world, cursive styles of handwriting, or rukaa, became more popular. As a rule, most of the later manuscripts were written in this style.

Handwritten books covered all spheres of life: literature, science, religion, philosophy. As early as the 9th century Abbasid rulers began to collect extensive libraries. Khalif Harun ar-Rashid, and then his son Ma’amun (see “The Abbasid dynasty”) set up special centers (“Dar al-hikma” – house of wisdom, Arabic) where translators and copyists worked, and thanks to them, as early as the 13th century Baghdad had libraries containing tens of thousands of books. The Arabs learned the secret of making paper from the Chinese in the 8th century, but before that they wrote on parchment. This made the work cheaper and allowed more craftsmen to copy the Koran and do translations from Greek, Pahlavi and Coptic of books on history and medicine. Some books (on botany, medicine, pharmacy, geography, etc.) already contained drawings, including geographic maps. Later appeared records of oral folklore, mostly poetry, as well as divans – genealogies and other works by Arab authors.

BOOK MINIATURES

The desire of artists to create art that would reflect the images of favorite literary subjects and heroes was expressed in illustrations and miniature painting. Miniature painting was widespread primarily in Iran, Central Asia and India, where the ban on the depiction of living beings was never total.

During the rule of the Ghaznevids (Khorasan, Afghanistan and North India – 977-1186) the illustrated manuscripts, the samples of which survived until our days, were already being created. Manuscript copyists and illustrators worked at the court of the Fatimids. But after the fall of the Fatimids in 1171, they migrated to Baghdad, where the rulers still patronized people of art. It was here in Baghdad that the production of illustrations for books began.

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In ordinary manuscripts, the artist drew the main lines of the composition in black or red pencil, and then painted. In expensive and luxury manuscripts the procedure was different: the copyist-calligrapher left the page intended for the miniature blank, and the artist stuck the completed miniature on it. The drawing and then the coloring were done on that sheet (murakka) which was coated with a special primer on gum arabic. Sometimes the primer was very thick which made the drawing relief. Another technique involved polishing the sheet with agate or ivory, then the artist drew water lines with a wet brush, traced the outline and applied a suitable paint.

In 1222, the painter Abdallah ibn al-Fadl made illustrations for Dioscorides’ Pharmacology, but in this work he took Greek drawings as his model. In 1237, Yahya ibn Mahmud of Wasit first made illustrations for the Maqamam al-Hariri. Before that, it was mainly illustrated books of natural sciences.

The art of the miniature flourished during the reign of the Ilkhan dynasty (1256-1353) in Iran. At that time, Tabriz was the most developed cultural center in the Middle East. It was there that the Persian epic Shah-nameh (Book of Kings) was first illustrated. Some 120 illustrations were produced between 1330 and 1340, of which today 58 miniatures are housed in various collections around the world. A Chinese influence can be felt in the manner in which they are depicted. Elements of Chinese painting (depiction of clouds, tongues of flame, poses and even costumes of some characters, etc.) were firmly incorporated into the practice of Muslim miniaturists. Already the first list of the Shahnameh was decorated with numerous illustrations depicting horsemen and dragons. But the Persian painters used their own elements of composition: details of landscapes, architectural structures, spatial solutions and the strictly frontal arrangement of figures.

CERAMICS

Of the few items that have survived since the Umayyads, the most interesting are vessels of the so-called “terra sigillata” type. These are relatively small vessels of good clay of white or light gray color without painting or glaze, but decorated with relief ornaments and inscriptions. Pottery found during archaeological excavations near Samarra, the temporary capital of the Abbasids, dates back to the 8th-9th centuries. Pottery is of different types and shapes. The best samples of unglazed Samarra ceramics are of strict form. They are decorated with floral and geometric ornamentation, applied on ware by cutting, stamping or coloring. In glazed painted ceramics very common are plant motifs and inscriptions, usually executed in dark blue (cobalt) or green on a light background. But at the same time, there were already products with underglaze ornamentation. In this case, even before the glaze was applied, the pattern was cut through the white engobe to red dough. It was Syrian-Mesopotamian ceramists of the 9th century that invented the technique of polychrome overglaze chandelier painting, which became one of the most popular methods of decorating pottery in the Orient.

Chandelier first appeared on glassware in the 8th century in Egypt, but at the same time, it is beginning to be used by the potters of Samarqand. Chandelier of Samarqand items is notable for richness and variety of colors and shades: blood-red with ruby glow, golden, brown, olive-green. Chandelier painting was used in the manufacture of decorative tiles for the decoration of palace interiors. Their ornamentation includes epigraphic inscriptions in kufi and plant motifs such as large leaves and many-petaled flowers similar to asters. Sometimes there are geometric motifs made in emerald, ochre-yellow and brown.

In the 12th century, potters of Raqqa (north-eastern Syria) also began to make luster pottery. Traditional ceramics of Raqqa were covered with transparent blue glaze and underglaze painting was done in black color. The ornamentation is dominated by large decorative inscriptions combined with plant interlacing filling in the spaces between the letters. The Rakka lusterware is characterized by a dark olive-brown color.

In Egypt, they also made pottery painted with lustre and various colors, where images of animals, fish, birds and human figures were reproduced along with vegetable and geometric motifs. Especially beautiful are large greenish-yellow lustre dishes of the 11th century with big figurative images, executed in a free picturesque manner. Among the images are figures of a musician, a man pouring wine into a cup, horsemen, battle scenes, as well as real and imaginary animals. The products of the Fatimid period (909-1171) are characterized by displacement of polychrome ceramics and its replacement by products with pale lemon or dark copper luster.

ARTISTIC GLASS

Glass in the East has been known since ancient times. British archaeologists during excavations in ancient Assyria found glass objects, and with them recipes for making glass. Glassware was already being made in ancient Egypt, Phoenicia and neighboring countries. Many of the techniques of the time have been adopted and used by later generations, some of them survived into the late Middle Ages. The technique of glass blowing, which emerged at the turn of the old and new times in Sidon (nowadays Saida in Lebanon), then the most important center of glass production, already in the 8th and 9th centuries made it possible to produce the first transparent thin-walled vessels of diverse molding. Molds for blowing were made either of wood or clay.

As a rule, glassmaking was based on three basic techniques: molding (when glass mass was poured into a mold), blowing and beveling (surplus parts were extracted from a piece of glass mass and the surface was treated by grinding with an abrasive wheel, which allowed for the imitation of crystal).

Syrian glassblowers produced bottles, bowls, flasks, sometimes with filaments or ornaments fused into the glass like a relief. Glass carving was improved with the help of an abrasive wheel. Similar vessels – with vertical ribs (like a cannelure) were made in imitation of objects of the Roman period.

With the emergence of the Muslim Caliphate, craftsmen began to paint glass with enamel paints and gold. In northeastern Syria, in the city of Raqqa, the center of glass and pottery manufacturing, polychrome chandeliers were already in use. Several vessels made in Raqqa are on display in the Damascus Museum. They are mostly vessels without a stand, almost cylindrical in shape, with geometric and vegetal ornamentation and decorated with a luster. However, after the Mongol invasion in 1259-1260, production of enameled glass moved to Damascus and Aleppo, where it survived until the 14th century.

In Iran, during the Samanid dynasty (9th-10th centuries) the Syrian technique of glass processing was applied. In the 10th century, masters began to use the technique of removing a part of the outer surface of a piece of glass, as was done by stone-cutters. Carved decoration was used in linear geometric ornamentation. A similar method was popular in Iran, Iraq and Egypt.

ART METAL

Metal had been worked in the Middle East before the arrival of the Arabs. But with the beginning of the Muslim conquests, armory workshops became widespread, for they produced cold and firearms.

The 12th century geographer Abu Abdallah Mohammad al-Idrisi wrote that the Arabs were familiar with Indian steel, which at the time was considered the best. A 13th-century Arabic manuscript from the Leiden Library in the Netherlands reports that some blades were made from metal that was imported from Ceylon, and in the 17th century Arab craftsmen had already surpassed the Hindus. From this time Cairo became the main arms market in the eastern Mediterranean.

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In Damascus, and then in Andalusia, began to make the famous Damascus and Toledo blades, the secret of manufacturing which was kept in the strictest secrecy. High quality of Damascus or Toledo steel was achieved thanks to the strict adherence to the recipe: strips of iron and steel (in cheaper varieties) or strips of different steel grades (in the best grades) were welded under a certain temperature. Toledo blades were in great demand throughout Europe. The sabre of Abdallah as-Sahir, a close associate of one of the last Arab rulers in Spain (14th century), is preserved in the Escurial Museum in Madrid.

Between the 7th and 15th centuries, melting technology was constantly improved. The invasion of the Middle East by the Crusaders forced the gunsmiths to work harder. As a result, the art of smelting and processing weapons metal received a special development. For instance, in the 15th century, the state of Ak-Koyunlu (“White Sheep” – a confederation of Turkmen tribes centered in Diyarbakr; ruled Eastern Anatolia and Azerbaijan in 1378-1508) produced magnificent helmets for warriors. Judging by the surviving specimens, they were put on a turban (hence the name Tyurbane – “turban helmet”). The top of the helmet was usually made of steel and decorated with engraving and silver incisions, while the helmet itself, similar to an onion, had thin walls. The perimeter of the helmet was inscribed in calligraphic script with the owner’s good wishes, as well as the name of the customer.

Turkey’s medieval weapons were no less decorative. Guns were usually decorated with nacre in the “sadaf” technique and sabers and yatagans were decorated with gold notches. The hilt was decorated with grains and inlays of precious stones, coral and turquoise. Gun-carriers were decorated in the same way. They were made of metal, leather, wood, shells and animal horns. One 17th century powder-coaster in the collection of the House of Islamic Monuments in Kuwait (the collection of the ruling house of al-Sabah) bears a passage from a poem by Gulistan Saadi: “The purpose (of life) is to leave a memory of myself, for I see no eternity in existence”.

The famous Russian Orientalist, Academician V.V. Bartold wrote that it was through contact with the Arabs Europeans learned about a variety of weapons in the East after 1147, although certain types of weapons were already known from Spain, which became the transfer point through which Europe received weapons made in the East and perfected by the Arabs.

With the growth and development of cities, handicraft production became practically the main occupation of townspeople. Shop communities of gunsmiths lived and worked according to their own laws. Each newcomer was subjected to a strict test of competence and carefully selected from a large number of applicants. The craft of arms was under the direct supervision of the military authorities and the main sheikh (sheikh ash-shuyuh – Arab), who was ordered to control the state of arms manufacture and qualification of craftsmen. To this day, many Damascus sabers are referred to by their own names of the founders of the “dynasties” of armourers – Suyufi, Saqali, Saqakin, Jahar, Boulad.

No less valuable were weapons inlaid with gold, silver, precious stones, which were made in Iran for the Safavid nobility. In addition, the technique of notching, engraving the background with strokes or netting was used here.

CARPET WEAVING

Carpet weaving demonstrates the fullest aesthetic preferences of Muslim peoples of various territories. As is known, carpet weaving has always been popular among nomads. First carpets had primitive pattern, but with the improvement of dyes and technology of weaving carpets turned into works of art. Scientific interest in carpets emerged in Western Europe in parallel to the high appraisal of old Persian carpets for their artistic quality that appeared in the second half of the 19th century. The majority of samples of ancient carpets belong to Islamic culture because for a Muslim a carpet was the sacred place where he prayed. In places where carpet weaving is part of a woman’s obligatory minimum skill, the bride gives the carpet as a gift to the groom. At times, a rug also became a funeral shroud for a Muslim.

The compositional structure of most carpets is organized on the principle of a central field and border frame. Often the central field of a carpet occupies 50-60% of its area, the rest of the space was occupied by ornamental stripes forming a frame. In the ornamental constructions of the central field, the principle of biaxial symmetry is most often applied, the main element of which is a polygonal rosette gyol. The border frame usually consists of one or more ornamental strips of different widths, limiting the central field. Decorative construction of the fringe bands is organized, as a rule, on the principle of rhythmic alternation of the same element – rapport.

The ornaments that fill the space of a rug are recreated from a stock of compositional schemes, which are handed down by carpet-makers from generation to generation. The depiction of subjects in early carpets is usually rare. Abstract-symbolic elements usually prevail.

The central place in ornamental design of the oriental carpets is given to a symbol. The general division of carpet field is subordinated to it, while every separate motif, be it of animal or vegetative origin, or depicts a geometrical figure, has its symbolic grounding, in the same way as the coloring. A stylistic analysis of the images on modern carpets shows that the ornament has undergone changes, which means not only the loss of knowledge of symbolism, but also the invasion of new materials and technological techniques. These changes occurred simultaneously with the modification of patterns on fabrics, decoration of architectural decoration of buildings, ornamentation of miniature paintings, ceramics and metal products, and reflect the change of tastes under the influence of neighboring cultures.

Choosing a pattern, a master was not only guided by a standard set of rug designs accepted in a particular area, but also experimented with them. L. Kerimov, a major expert on Caucasian carpets, discovered that the most frequent elements in carpets belonging to the Baku group are the candlestick (shamdan) and the oilcloth (yagdan). Moreover, he believes that the widespread asymmetrical gyol resembling a big comma or tear is actually a flame (buta). In geometric stylistics the buta takes the form of an oil lamp. In the Eastern mythological systems, fire occupies an important place. In Zoroastrianism, fire acted as a sacred element, the embodiment of divine justice.

Very often, leaves of grapes or figs were present in the rug, which was supposed to mean wishes of happiness and well-being. The number of rapports on the central field also has its own semantic meaning. Sometimes their arrangement – in the form of a triangle or a pentagon – shows that the rug is used as a prayer rug, and it is laid out so that the “tip” of the ornament of the central field (usually a separate rapportor in the first row) marked the qibla (orientation to Mecca).

Sometimes a swastika can be found among the designs, which in carpet weaving usually replaces the circle, the ancient Aryan sun symbol. In the Far East, the swastika represents the four winds. If you lengthen the two vertical ends of the swastika (one up, the other down), you get an ancient Turkic sign that symbolizes the union of heaven and earth. The five-pointed star, often found in Muslim countries (and in some of them it is the state symbol, for example, in Morocco or Saudi Arabia) symbolizes khamsat al-arkan, the “five pillars of Islam. All these symbols (as well as many others) can still be seen in the decoration of arts and crafts in the East.

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A similar task is assigned to the color. For example, red in Turkey is the color of happiness. Red in carpets and fabrics of the East from ancient times is the most favorite color. In ancient times, Turkish artisans (unlike Iranian) tried to avoid the color green. The reason was that green was the color of the prophet’s banner, and Sunni Turks believed that people should not be allowed to trample on the carpet that had this color on it.

Naturally, carpets made in Muslim countries carry many symbols related to the religious worldview. But Islam is believed to forbid the depiction of living beings. Nevertheless the ancient Persian tradition of depicting the images of royal life – feasts, hunting, investiture scenes (crowning), so typical for different kinds of Iranian pre-Islamic art – did not disappear with the advent of Islam, although they were slightly modified.

In Egypt carpets began to be made only under the late Mamluks (15th century). As a rule geometric pattern was used in borders and the central field was filled with vegetative motives. In the color scheme the preference was given to three tones: cherry, turquoise and emerald green. Later samples used yellow, black and white. The most famous rug from the period of Mameluk rule belonged to the Habsburg family, and is now preserved in the Museum of Applied Arts in Vienna.

From the 15th century there are survived several carpets made in Arabian Spain in Mudejar style, which reached its heyday in the 14-15 centuries. This style is a peculiar combination of Moorish and Gothic (and later Renaissance) elements. The surviving carpets have a blue field on which the coats of arms of Spanish families were usually depicted. Sometimes the field is woven with checkerboard squares or medallions. The border is ornamented with octagonal figures and sometimes it features sayings made according to templates made by calligraphers in the kufi style.

The most common product of rug workshops in Muslim countries was the Sajat (Arabic) or Namazlyk (Turkish) rug for namaz. It is a small, about one meter long rug, on which, as a rule, an arch, mihrab, is depicted. The rug was laid in such a way that the center of the arch coincided with the qibla, the direction to the holy Mecca. As soon as industrial production began, the sajats began to be made of artificially dyed fibers on mechanically powered machines.

Making decorative fabrics. The art of silk spinning penetrated from China to Iran in the pre-Islamic period, and from there to Syria. Fabrics played an important role in the lives of Muslim rulers. During the Abbasid period the Arab aristocracy wore layered clothes, especially suitable for the dry and hot desert climate with sharp temperature variations at night.

Because Muslims were forbidden to wear silk clothing, a unique fabric was woven in Damascus, the outer side of which was silk and the wrong side was cotton. The fabric is called after the place of production, damask, and was widely distributed everywhere. Weavers also made traditional sofa cushions, tablecloths, saddlery, purse, shoes, silk drapes, hats, scarves and upholstery fabric. During the Fatimid period (909-1171) in Cairo, there was a state-owned manufactory which produced decorative fabrics. Such enterprises were called tiraz (in both Arabic and Persian the word means decorated, embroidered fabric). Apart from Cairo, there were also weaving mills in Damietta, Alexandria, Tinnis and Thun. There they mainly produced fabrics for expensive clothes, which Fatimides rewarded their guests and courtiers. The fabrics trace the Coptic tradition, which preserved the tapestry technique for making patterns in silk or wool. There was a technique of printed patterns. Gradually geometric patterns appeared in drawing: stars, polygons, stylized figures of birds. Multicolored woolen trellises in the Coptic style, fabrics from linen, woven in gold and colored silks were also made.

Throughout the East the Iranian silk fabrics were in demand, which in Russia were called “facial” (because of the images on them of people, animals, birds, plants in the pattern – figures of young men under a tree, figures on the sides of a tree, etc.). One of the simplest compositions of “face” fabrics is an image of two figures on the sides of a tree. On some fabrics the rhapsody was an infinitely evolving composition. Sometimes the pattern was supplemented with embroidery.

Quite a lot of samples of fabrics has been preserved, testifying about the high level of weaving in the Arabian Spain. Obviously, the Arabs brought many useful skills with them to Andalusia, including the breeding of the silkworm. The Muse’e Cluny in Paris has a 12th-century fabric whose ornament consists of horizontal stripes and opposing peacocks, which symbolize immortality. Their tails, symmetrically rising above their backs and almost closing at the top, form a kind of circle characteristic of the pattern of ancient oriental fabrics. The figures of birds stand at the foot, decorated with an inscription, on the sides of a stylized “tree of life. According to experts, this motif comes from the Persian traditions of the Sassanid dynasty. Yellow in one row and red in another, the bodies of peacocks with abruptly curved breasts and proudly thrown necks stand out against the black silk background with bright spots of color. Small figures of gazelles, birds and even dogs were introduced into the pattern, similar to the curls of the ornament. Thus, the fabrics created in Arab Spain of this period represent an original fusion of Sassanid, Byzantine and especially Coptic traditions. This is how the Spanish-Moorish style was gradually formed. In the 14th-15th centuries a silk fabric with an intricate geometric ornamentation, conventionally called alhambra (from Arabic al-hamra – red) became famous. It was first made in southern Spain and then in Fez, Rabat, Marrakesh and Tunis, the North African cities that became heirs of the culture of Arab Spain.

OTHER TYPES OF APPLIED ARTS

Among other types of applied arts of Muslim countries should be noted wood and ivory carving. In the 11th-12th centuries one of the centers of ivory carving was Sicily. Subsequently, most of the surviving pieces came into the possession of churches, where oliphants (containers made from tusk or horn) began to serve as reliquaries. Bone carving was also practiced in Cordoba until 1031. But after the fall of the Umayyad Caliphate, the carvers moved to Toledo and then to Granada. Masters made pixies (round boxes) and chests. Very often the carvings used traditional Muslim ornamentation with arabesques.

Among wooden articles of the greatest interest are items made for keeping the Koran (caskets and chests), as well as stands for the Koran (kursi, Arabic for “chair”), used during namaz in the mosque. Due to the high price of wood, not all Muslims could afford wooden furniture. Nevertheless, samples of carved furniture made in the Sadaf technique (using inlaid mother-of-pearl) can be found in Arab museums. Pearl processing was particularly popular in Palestine. Local craftsmen made small caskets, models of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and rosaries, both Muslim and Christian.


What is the peculiarity of Islamic architecture?


Use of geometric forms and repetitive architecture – arabesque. The use of symmetry. Sinks and fountains for ritual washing. Mihrab niche in the mosque wall indicating the qibla, i.e. the direction where the Kaaba in Mecca is located.

What do they call the Islamic culture?

From this Arabic word “Muslim” comes the Russian word “Muslim” as a designation of a follower of Islam. In the Koran, Islam is basically the eternal doctrine of monotheism, which was preached by all the prophets.

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