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Upper interior surface of a room. Many different types of ceiling are found in Islamic architecture, including Coffering, Artesonado, and Muqarnas. Only fragments survive from a few wooden ceilings in the early hypostyle mosques of the central and western Islamic lands. Beams from the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem (8th century; see Temple Mount (Jerusalem)) are carved with a great variety of vegetal, geometric, and architectural motifs. The Mosque of Ibn Tulun (879) in Cairo (see Cairo §III 2.) had a flat wooden ceiling with a narrow wooden frieze nailed to the top of the arcades supporting the roof. Measuring almost 2 km Córdoba §3, (i) in length, the frieze was inscribed with verses from the Koran. The wooden ceiling from the Great Mosque of Córdoba (see) as extended in the 960s and 980s was dismantled in the early 18th century and later replaced. The ceiling comprised closely placed transverse beams supporting planks, the whole protected by a gabled roof covered with tile to allow an insulating layer of air between ceiling and roof to keep the interior cool. More than 50 fragments of the carved and painted beams from the original ceiling have survived in museums (e.g., Copenhagen, Davids Saml. 2/...


Yasser Tabbaa

[Arab. muqarnas; muqarnaṣ; muqarbaṣ; Sp. mocárabes]

Three-dimensional decorative device used widely in Islamic architecture, in which tiers of individual elements, including niche-like cells, brackets and pendants, are projected over those below (see fig.). Muqarnas decoration, executed in stucco, brick, wood and stone, was consistently applied to cornices, squinches, pendentives, the inner surfaces of vaults and other parts of buildings throughout the Islamic world from the 12th century. Seen from below, the muqarnas presents a stunning visual effect as light plays over the deeply sculpted but regularly composed surface; this explains the comparison of muqarnas in European languages with ‘stalactite vaulting’ (Ger. Stalaktitengewölbe) or ‘honeycombs’ (Fr. alvéoles). The Arabic term muqarnas first appears in the 12th century, but a related verb had been used a century earlier to describe deeply carved and moulded stucco ornament on Islamic architecture. It has been suggested and widely accepted that the word derives from the Greek koronis...


Susan Roaf

[Arab. bādahanj, malqaf; Pers. bādgīr]

Traditional form of natural ventilation and air-conditioning built on houses throughout the Middle East from North Africa to Pakistan. Constructed at least since the 2nd millennium bc in Egypt, wind catchers have also been used to cool caravanserais, water cisterns and mosques. Consisting of an open vent built on the roof facing into or away from the prevailing wind, wind catchers have shafts carrying the air down through the roof into the living area below, thereby ventilating and cooling the spaces. Wind catchers are generally placed above the summer rooms of courtyard houses. On the Iranian plateau, where the finest wind catchers are built, the vents are in the tops of brick towers which capture the faster airstreams above the general roof level. When there is little air movement, as on summer afternoons, the wind catcher acts as a chimney, drawing warm air up the shaft and through the living areas from the courtyard. In coastal settlements, towers generally face onshore winds. Most inland towers also face prevailing winds but in some desert settlements in the Yazd region of central Iran, where the prevailing wind is hot and dusty, vents similarly face away from the wind, and the preferred air from the courtyard is drawn through the summer rooms. In Iraq and central Iran, wind catchers are important in moderating the climate of the deep basements used as summer living rooms. In the Gulf and in Sind (the lower Indus region) wind catchers serve ground- and first-floor summer rooms....