Art of the Islamic world

The Taj Mahal, a silk carpet, a Qur‘an; all of these are examples of Islamic art. But what exactly is Islamic art and architecture?

Gold dinar of caliph Abd al-Malik, © The Trustees of the British Museum
The Dome of the Rock. The Great Mosque in Damascus. The Great Mosque in Córdoba. These remarkable achievements are all Umayyad.

The Umayyads (661–749 C.E.)

View of the Courtyard of the Great Mosque of Damascus, photo: Eric Shin, CC BY-NC 2.0
Once a temple to Zeus, the Great Mosque of Damascus, has survived the Syrian Civil War, and stands as one of the world's most important historic structures.

The Great Mosque of Damascus

The Hagia Sophia as a mosque
After the Ottomans conquered Constantinople, the sultan repurposed this church, adding slender “pencil” minarets.

Hagia Sophia as a mosque

The Hajj
The sacred pilgrimage to Mecca—birthplace of Prophet Muhammad—involves a series of rituals and lasts several days.


Producing this lush miniature involved many Persian artists—and likely some familiarity with Chinese sources.

The Court of Gayumars

The Great Mosque of Kairouan
Kairouan was an important early Islamic city in north Africa. Marble and porphyry columns flank its Great Mosque.

Kairouan (from UNESCO)

The Damascus Room (detail)
The sound of the fountain led guests into this 18th-century house, where a vibrant interior stimulated ear and eye.

Qa’a (The Damascus room)

Mihrab from Isfahan (Iran) (detail)
This prayer niche once pointed students towards Mecca. Its blue and white patterns comprise verses from the Qur’an.

Mihrab from Isfahan (Iran)