This is another view of the Wikala of Sultan Qansuh al-Ghuri located in Cairo. The alteration of colors in other areas than the archways (and hence not ablaq) is more clear in this one. Some alteration is visible in the closest archway, but I’m sure that it’s regular enough to be seen as intentional alteration (and therefore ablaq). More constant alteration is particularly clear in the columns, where the different stone types reveal that most columns are actually stacked layers, rather than a solid whole.

The Cathedral-Mosque of Córdoba was originally a polytheistic temple, which was replaced with a Christian church during the Visigothic period of rule in Iberia. Following Muslim conquests of the region, the site was split between Muslims and Christians. When the heir to the Umayyad Caliphate fled a coup in 750 CE in Syria, he managed to establish a rival caliphate on the Iberian peninsula. As the first Iberian Caliph, Abd al-Rahman I purchased the Christian portion of the space, and effectively rebuilt most of the mosque. Large sections of the site, now used as a cathedral, date to that period.

Often Iberian Umayyad art and architecture recalls the origins of the caliphate as exiled leaders of the Muslim world, originally from modern Syria. Ablaq (alternating coloring in archways) is frequently used, undoubtedly in part because it is strongly associated with that region, where it appears to have originated as an architectural form. The pillared halls the cathedral-mosque recall this especially well, with multiple stacked layers of supportive arches - all with red and white ablaq.

(Photo credits - Ian Pitchford above, Melanie Michailidis below)

The archways in the courtyard of the sixteenth century Selimiye Mosque show the same red and white ablaq as in the interior of the Ottoman mosque. Interestingly, the late Byzantine use of multiple gently-sloped domes and slightly pointed arches effortlessly coexists with an Islamic ablution fountain. There’s enormous continuity with the previously Christian-dominated culture in İstanbul but still a clear insertion of some Islamic themes in the midst of the architecture.

(Photo credit - Melanie Michailidis)

Ablaq inside of the Dome of the Rock, which is built on the rock where (allegedly) Abraham nearly sacrificed Isaac (visible on the bottom of the above photo). Note extensive use of gold on the columns’ capitals and the wooden dome and large mosaics honoring the victory of Arab conquerors of the region. Originally completed in the 7th Century, CE.

(Photo credits - Melanie Michailidis)

This is another photograph of the interior of the Complex of Qaitbay, a fifteenth century Mamluk construction in Cairo. As previously mentioned of the complex, much of the interior arches show red-and-white ablaq in addition to other artistic motifs collectively often referred to as chiaroscuro - the intentional contrast lighter and darker colors. 

Interestingly, the square room shown here is formed by four slightly pointed iwans (sometimes spelled ivans) or large archways. This type of room is common in Persian architecture, but the slight point in the arches implies Byzantine influence. Balanced against these foreign-seeming architectural forms, however, is the ring of small windows around the raised central walls. Common in Cairo but relatively rare elsewhere, this construction takes advantage of abundance sunlight in the extremely arid climate of Egypt, while avoiding the eyes of neighbors, much like mashrabiya.

(Photo credit: Melanie Michailidis)

The Bab al-Mardum Mosque (more frequently called the Mosque of Cristo de la Luz by Spaniards) is an Ummayad-period construction, finished in 1000 CE, located in Toledo, Spain. The 9-domed mosque reflects Middle Eastern tastes for simple neighborhood mosques, which are built on a simple square foundation which is divided into 9 square subdivisions. In spite of this clearly Islamic structure, this mosque and other architecture of its type are often credited with establishing the sloped arches of early Gothic architecture in Europe. Note the red and yellow ablaq in the rounded arches over the slit-like windows.

(Photo credit: Melanie Michailidis)

The Rüstem Pasha, located in İstanbul, is a sixteenth century construction with extensive later İznik tiles covering its interior. These blue and white tiles were some of the earliest porcelain with white background produced in the world, which inspired the now iconic blue and white Chinese porcelain (often just called, “china”). Note the similar alteration between red and white patterns (here, the ablaq, the alternation on the arches) and the blue and white patterns (here, the iznik tiles on the walls) which was also used in the Süleymaniye Mosque.

(Photo credit - Melanie Michailidis)

The Selimiye Mosque is another sixteenth century Ottoman construction in İstanbul. In fact, both the Selimiye Mosque and the Suleimaniye Mosque share an architect - Mimar Sinan, a janissary and favored architectural designer of the sixteenth century Ottoman Empire. Ironically, while the Suleimaniye Mosque is his best known work, this mosque, Mimar Sinan considered the Selimiye Mosque his masterpiece. 

Notice the hatched ablaq in the archway. Ablaq is frequently used in Mimar Sinan’s work.

(Photo credit: Melanie Michailidis)

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