The Magic of Islamic Design

Islam has profited mankind in many ways; algebra, trigonometry and astronomy were developed during the Islamic Golden Age, and it was the Moors who guarded the philosophical writings of the Ancient Greeks for future generations.

This mathematical and geometric fascination can be seen in the designs of Islamic craftsmen and artists for centuries. The most centrally recognisable pattern is the Islamic star, first seen in the 8th century in Syria and Jordan, the 12 pointed stars often seen in Morocco were first found in Iran in the 10th Century.

Morocco is a melting pot of Islamic, Berber and Spanish influences, creating a mix of adobe walls and domes combined with luxuriously decorated interiors. The allure, mystery and beauty of the country is captured in architecture which celebrates God and the beauty of the world in Pentagons, Hexagons, Heptagons, squares and triangles. Another reason why this geometric decoration became so entrenched was the laws against celebrating men or animals as idols in art and design.

All that was needed is a ruler, pair of compasses and a lot of patience. Design elements to look out for are elaborate geometric patterns, ornamental Islamic Calligraphy of Quranic verses and colourful zellij a ceramic tile mosaic.

Visit the Bahia Palace and Saadian Tombs in Marrakech for great examples, or simply stumble upon stunning examples in some of the grand Riad courtyards.

If revisiting your school geometry is your thing, I have found a course in Fez which teaches tile design and making, and also has a base in the UK.