Study – Difference between Jaalis and Mashrabia

For this post, let us look into the difference between Jaalis and Mashrabia.

First of all, Jaali and Mashrabia is quite similar – a window or doorway decorated with ornamentation made in carved wood or stone. It is design so to let the individuals inside a building to see outside in privacy, as well as to allow air to circulate (which is welcome in the dry desert heat)

While at first glance both Jaali and Mashrabia are very much simillar, there is quite a number of difference to distinguish of one another, and made it unique.

  1. The designs–  Between Jaali and Mashrabia there are quite distinct features that differs the two. While two of these architectural features may designed with organic, vegetal design or geometrical design, there are slight difference between the two. Jaali are more complicated, and the carving are more delicate and more refined. The design might also mix different designs on one Jaali, while remaining in one style. While Mashrabia while are refined as well, but not as delicate as Jaali. It is thicker, perhaps to allow more privacy to the dweller within where the Mashrabia is employed.
    Author - Rémih

    A Mashrabia installed in Abou Al-Haggag mosque, built over the Luxor Temple in Egypt. Note the more thicker ornamentation to the Mashrabia.

  2. The materials – Jaali craftsmen usually uses stone such as marble and red sandstone, maybe because the said materials are more easily accessible in the region. It is also decorated with precious and semi-precious stones, especially during the late period of the Mughal Empire. Mashrabia usually done in wood and other easily malleable materials. However it is more thicker than its Jaali cousins.Jaali surrounding the cenotaphs in the Taj Mahal, Agra, India. Note that is is made out of marble, and also that the designs are much more detailed and delicate.
  3. The Regions – The term Jaali is used in Central Asia – mostly in India, Pakistan and the countries surrounding,while Mashrabia is used mostly in the Arabic world ; from Iran, Iraq to Morocco and Andalusia.
    Author - Dan Searle

    Shadows of a Jaali screen in Taj Mahal, Agra, India. Jaali are unique to the Indian region, while Mashrabia are characteristic to Arabian region.

  4. Areas of Employment – Both Jaali and Mashrabia are used in religious and secular buildings. Jaali are employed in palaces, mosques and even tombs and mausoleums, used as windows, decorations over portals etc. Mashrabia are mostly used in housing and public buildings such as mosques and hammams, but rarely in tombs and mausoleum . Mashrabia are used for functional reason rather than aesthetics, unlike Jaali.
    Author - Papillus

    A Mashrabia window on a residential building in Cairo, Egypt. Mashrabia have more functional use rather than just aesthetics.

Project on the way

I am still struggling to make more posts here, but a huge commitment is taking up my time.

I am creating designs for a competition ; designing a Mushaf (Al-Quran) cover. It is a very exciting venture for me, but time is running out!

I will soon post my project here after sending in my submissions. Until then, keep on reading!


Imagining Islamic Aesthetics #18 – Islamic Arches

After a long, long unintentional break from blogging due to technical problems, I am back with my Imagining Islamic Aesthetics posts (and other posts as well!). For this edition of the Imagining Islamic Aesthetics I would like to bring forward the topic of Islamic Arches.

The Islamic Architecture is known for its usage of domes, (influenced from the Byzantine Empire architecture), minarets, usage of gardens etc but it is also remarked by their usage of arches, as they were one of the first who utilizes the architectural feature in their buildings. alfiz

The Muslims adopted the architectural features of arches into their buildings and improvised upon them and created new variations, where it is then used by the Renaissance builders after them (think the Venetian palaces).

The arches may predate the Muslim Empire, in which it is found in the Roman and Byzantine civilizations, but it is in the Ummayad era that arches were given the distinct characteristic of horseshoes. This can be seen in the Mosque of Cordoba in Spain. It is by then spread throughout the Arabic Kingdoms in the regions where it metamorphosed into different variations.

A view inside the Mosque of Cordoba (now Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción) showing one of the finest example of the Islamic, Horseshoe arch.

Intricate carvings on arches founded in the Alcazaba de Málaga, an Islamic era fort in Spain. Most often these arches can be seen with a degree of decoration, for example this one with sumptuous carving done on the plastering of the arches.

A portal in Santiago de Peñalba, a church in Valle de Silencio, Province of Leon, Spain. While these arches is prevalent in the Islamic architecture, it is also utilized by other cultures and religions.

A mihrab in a mosque in Aljaferia Palace in Spain. The Horseshoe Arch, as well as for connecting two pillars together and offer extra support for roofing, it also acts as decorative elements to Mihrabs, and over portals, doors and windows.

An illustration showing the ‘New Jerusalem’, taken from an 1047AD Book of Revelation. The illustration clearly shows Horseshoe arches, an apparent influence of Islamic art and architecture to Christian art (and generally, many other civilizations)

Long, long silence…

Hello dear readers,

As you may notice, I have not posted anything for some weeks now. This is because my laptop HD is broken, and I had to replace it.

I will try and make up the lost time and I promise I will post articles again as soon as possible.

I am currently working on an art project, and in the meanwhile I have lots to share with you readers.

See you again soon,