Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The beauty of Islamic patterns

Have you seen these pictures of the beautiful details and stunning light effects of the Nasir al-Mulk Mosque in Iran? What an amazing space, and the ambiance seems wonderful for celebrating one's faith, or just taking some time to be introspective. It reminded me of a mosque I visited over a decade ago now while on a cruise. We were lucky enough to have a stop in Casablanca where I got to visit the Hassan II Mosque, the largest mosque in the country! The top picture was taken of me in the courtyard. The scale was very impressive, as you can see from this picture:
What is harder to see in this picture is the beautiful and intricate designs found all over this building, both inside and out. You can see some of the tile work better here (that was a group of school boys we found taking a break on their way to school in the morning).
Typically, Islamic art focuses on the depiction of patterns and Arabic calligraphy, rather than on depictions of people. Apparently many Muslims feel that depictions of humans is a form of idolatry and therefore forbidden by God. I actually studied Medieval Art in college so I love my strange, flat, stylized depictions of people in religious art from that period. But in Casablanca I fell in love with both the simplicity and the complexity of Islamic religious art and it's lack of people. The patterns are mesmerizing on their own but when you put them together in a room the beauty is exponential. There is something about the effect that does allow you to become absorbed, like it creates a different world to inhabit. In this way the designs are well-suited to a religious space where I assume people want to take time to reflect and look inward.

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