The Middle Eastern region has a rich cultural heritage and tradition influenced majorly by the Islam religion. There are about 17 countries that are part of the Middle Eastern region. These are UAE, Jordan, Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Tunisia, Algeria, Djibouti, Israel, Iraq, Egypt, and Iran. The region is one of the most visited destinations in the world. Every year, millions of visitors from all over the globe set their foot on Middle Eastern sand to experience the culture, tradition, architecture, food, and lifestyle of this place. Among the richest nations in the world are some of the Middle Eastern countries like Israel, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait.
According to historians, multiple civilizations grew from the middle east and migrated to other parts of the world. The earliest human settlements were also reported to have started in this region. The Middle Eastern countries have followed Islam and its tenets for a long period. These religious beliefs and observances have helped shape the architecture in the region evolve, as well.
Five architectural masterpieces of the Middle East
Influenced by its religious traditions, the Middle East boasts of places that encourage people to pray, eat, and stay together. Most forts had prayer hall, libraries, food hall, a place for travelers, guests, and lavish common bathing spaces. Islamic calligraphy on the walls of the forts and palaces and minarets were a common feature. Similarly, domes, pointed arch, geometric patterns, and muqarnas or ornamented doorways were also constructed to be part of mosques, forts, tombs of famous Islamic kings, and rulers in Persia. Public baths or hammams and gardens with fountains have also been incorporated for centuries in the Middle East. Geometric patterns and floral arrangements ruled the wall decorations. Likewise, different forms of arches such as the horseshoe, multi-foil, ogee arch, and pointed arch were distinctively etched to perfection on most palaces and mosque buildings.
The Middle East has been referred to as the “cradle of human civilization”. Architecture has taken center stage and evolved to the maximum in the region with each passing century.
The Dome of the Rock
The Dome of Rock is an Islamic architectural masterpiece situated in the Old City of Jerusalem and highly relevant from a religious perspective. It was built at around 691 CE by one of the four succeeding powerful caliphates, which commenced as soon as Islam as a religion was congregated. According to the historical mentions, the original dome was destroyed in 1015 and was rebuild between the 1022-23 centuries. The dome has gold plating and it bears religious significance for the Muslims as well as for the Jewish community. The Dome has been a point of conflict between Muslims and Jewish, who have claimed religious importance in their separate ways.
The massive dome from the exterior is its biggest attraction, while in the interior, the lavishly decorated walls charms the visitors. It is among the most photographed construction around the world. The dome of the rock is one of the significant ancient landmarks in Istanbul. The dome of the rock is proclaimed as the oldest Islamic establishments in the world. It is also recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since the structure embodies the world’s oldest Islamic inscriptions and proclamations observed by Muslims around the world.
The Suleymaniye Mosque is situated in the beautiful city of Istanbul, Turkey. It is amongst the prime attractions of Istanbul. This mosque was built to signify the imperial legacy of the Ottoman Empire king, King Suleiman. He was also known as the Suleiman, the magnificent. Under his reign, the empire flourished in art, literature, and architecture. The designs and layout of the mosque were conceived and developed by the Ottoman architect Mimar Sinan.
The mosque was built during the rule of King Suleiman between 1550-57th century. The Sulemaniye Mosque was designed to emanate the representation of King Suleiman as the second Solomon. It is one of the four imperial mosques built under the King’s rule. From the Exterior, the mosque has a forecourt with a centralized fountain that grabs maximum attention. There are four-pointed minarets, eyeing the sky with 10 balconies or serefes.
The interior of the Suleymaniye Mosque is in the shape of a square. The mihrab is covered in fine Iznik tiles with glass-stained windows and painted muqarnas. There are two separate mausoleums of King Suleiman and his queen-wife Hurrem Sultan.
Jameh Mosque of Esfahan
Jameh Mosque of Esfahan or Masjed-e Jāmé of Isfahan is a famous and ancient mosque situated in the province of Esfahan, Iran. The city of Isfahan bears its own historical relevance. The mosque was built on a massive 5.129 acres of land. It is the oldest standing religious place in Iran that had four gates built standing face to face. Inspired by Persian architecture and the Jameh Mosque of Esfahan has a clear and balanced erected structure with carefully carved geometric patterns.
As per many historians, the mosque was built around the 8th century. It also has prayer halls, columns, vaults, four-gates, or iwan. Reportedly, the spectacular Iwans or Chahar Ayvan have contributed to setting an example for other Middle East architecture buildings and constructions in different parts of the world. Also, the layout design and shape of domes were archetypical for the mosque in the Iran region.
Jameh Mosque of Esfahan was rebuilt after destruction in the 11th century and is an archaic example of Middle Eastern architecture. The mosque was also declared as World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2012.
Great Mosque of Samarra
The mosque is a magnificent 9th century CE structure situated in Samarra, Iraq. About 120 km in the North Baghdad, the mosque is situated nearby the banks of the Tigris River. One of few spiral minarets known in Islamic architecture, the Great Mosque of Samarra is 171 ft high and 33 meters wide. Emperor caliph al-Mutawakkil built the mosque to escape local conflicts and stayed there for 56 years. The mosque sits on massive 17 acres of land and covers an area of 38,000 sq. meters.
The mosque was inspired by the Mesopotamian structure called ziggurats. As per archeological findings, it had 17 aisles and the walls were decorated with mosaics in blue. The Malwiya minaret was destroyed in invasion and was rebuild to be again destroyed by ongoing conflicts in Iraq. It is another Middle Eastern architectural entry into the UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites. Though, in rumbles today, the Great Mosque of Samarra has been the mark of Islam in the Tigris.
The Citadel of Aleppo
The city of Aleppo is known for being the home of the Citadel of Aleppo. The palace is built in limestone and is sitting at about 100 feet above the surrounding ground. It is one of the well-known medieval forts. The Citadel is counted among the oldest Islamic forts in the world. The Citadel bears religious relevance for the Muslim community for having the presence of Hadad temple inside the fort palace. As per historians, the Citadel was built around the 3rd millennium BC and 12th century AD. During excavation, the discovery of Bronze age temples raised the interests of the historians and archeologists in this site. Foundations like WMF and Agha Khan Foundation have acted together to the preservation of the site and speed up excavation work.
The Citadel has an entrance block, Ayyubid palace, Hammam, wells, and underground passages. The Citadel of Aleppo has seen a series of destruction, restructuring, and occupation by Romans, Byzantine, Zengid & Ayyubid, Mongol & Mamluk emperors. Today, the structure is in rumbles due to the ongoing civil war in the region.
The Great Pyramids of Giza
Middle Eastern architecture is a highly revered form of building construction and style. The early Middle Eastern architecture primarily focused on religious establishments. The influence of which was drawn heavily from the Persian, Roman, and Byzantine empires. Middle Eastern architecture has added value to the progress and development of world architecture. The breathtakingly innovative and mysterious structures of the Pyramids have their own recognition around the world.
Among many, the Middle Eastern region is also the home of the Egyptian pyramids like the Great Pyramids of Giza, which emanates Middle Eastern architectural knowledge and expertise. The pyramid structures are situated in Cairo, Egypt. After endless research and historic findings, archaeologists concluded that the pyramids were built by the ancient Pharaohs or Kings at around 2650 BC. The material used for construction was limestone and granite and erected with heavy boulders in a conical shape. The mystery behind the construction process of the Great Pyramids of Giza has baffled historians and archaeologists for many years.
The Great Pyramid of Giza consists of King’s chamber, Queen’s chamber, a gallery, and satellite small pyramids, which surround the main structure. The pyramids in Egypt have also made headlines for the discovery of ancient mummies of kings and queens of Egypt. It has furthered the mystery about the purpose of constructing pyramids and the unexplored secrets of Egyptian civilization.