The architectural heritage of the Islamic world is staggeringly rich. Here’s a list of a few of the most iconic mosques, palaces, tombs, and fortresses. In 1631 Mumtaz Mahal, the third and favorite wife of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, who reigned from 1628-58, died while giving birth to the couple’s fourteenth child. Devastated, the emperor commissioned the Taj Mahal.
A massive mausoleum complex on the southern bank of the Yamuna Jumna River. It ultimately took more than 20 years to complete. Today the Taj Mahal is the most famous piece of Islamic architecture in the world, except for the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. The monument is remarkable both for its size. The finial of the dome of the central mausoleum stands 240 feet 73 meters above ground level. It is also remarkable for its graceful form, which combines Indian, Islamic, and Persian design.
The Friday Mosque, Esfahan Heritage
Located at the center of Esfahan a city full of architectural treasures is the sprawling Friday Mosque. A mosque has stood on the site since the 8th century. However, the oldest elements of the current structure are two domes built during the Seljuk dynasty, which ruled Iran in the 11th century. The four iwan design, which first appeared in Esfahan, later became the norm for Iranian mosques.
The Dome of the Rock Heritage
The Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem is the oldest extant Islamic monument and one of the best-known. Built in 691–692, about 55 years after the Arab conquest of Jerusalem, the design and ornamentation are rooted in the Byzantine architectural tradition. However, they also display traits that would later be associate with a distinctly Islamic architectural style.
The structure consists of a gilded wooden dome sitting atop an octagonal base. Inside, two ambulatories circle around a patch of exposed rock. The site is sacred to both Judaism and Islam. In Jewish tradition it is said to be the spot where Abraham prepare to sacrifice his son Isaac, and in Islamic tradition it is held to be the site of Muhammad’s ascent to heaven. The interior is richly decorate with marble, mosaics, and metal plaques.
Great Mosque of Samarra Heritage
When the Great Mosque of Samarra in Iraq build by the Abbasid caliph Al-Mutawakkil reigned from 847-861 around 850, it was probably the largest mosque in the world. It had a total area of nearly 42 acres. The mosque build out of baked brick, with an interior decorate with blue glass. Most of the structure destroy during the Mongol invasion led by Hulagu in 1258.
However, one of the most intriguing features, the 170-foot and 52-meter minaret, survived. The minaret is build in the shape of a cone, wrap in a spiraling ramp that leads to the top. It’s unclear why the builders chose the conical shape; some people have noted that it slightly resembles an ancient ziggurat.
The Citadel of Aleppo
Some of the most impressive Middle East architecture is medieval fortresses in cities such as Cairo, Damascus, and Irbil. One of the last remaining examples of Islamic military architecture is the citadel that stands on the top of a hill in the middle of the Syrian city of Aleppo. Archaeologists have found fortifications dating back to Roman times and earlier.
However, the citadel begin in the 10th century and acquired its current form in massive expansion and reconstruction during the Ayyubid era about 1171–1260. Inside the citadel walls are residences, chambers to store supplies, wells, mosques, and defensive installations everything needed to hold out against a long siege.
The most-imposing part of the complex is the massive entrance block, built around 1213. A steep stone bridge resting on seven arches leads across the moat now dry to two towering gates the Gate of the Serpents and the Gate of the Lions. To enter the citadel, invaders had to penetrate both gates and navigate a winding passageway. Defenders poured boiling liquids down on them and arrows shot from numerous arrow slits rained down on them from above.
Great Mosque of Córdoba Heritage
The earliest parts of the Great Mosque of Córdoba, Spain, build on the site of a Christian church by the Umayyad ruler Abd al-Rahman I in 784-786. The structure underwent several enlargements in the 9th and 10th centuries. A richly decorated mihrab, set behind an intricate arch, was added during one of these enlargements. Porphyry, jasper, and marble columns make up the hypostyle hall of the mosque. These columns support two-tier horseshoe arches. Most of the columns and capitals recycle from earlier buildings.
Sulaymaniyah Mosque complex, Istanbul
Sulaymaniyah Mosque is among the most prominent features of Istanbul’s skyline. This complex stands on an artificial platform overlooking the Bosporus. Built by the Ottoman emperor Suleyman the Magnificent between 1550 and 1557 at the height of the Ottoman Empire’s power, it is the largest and arguably the most striking of the imperial mosque complexes in Istanbul.
The mosque interior is a single square-shape room, illuminate by more than 100 large windows, many stain glass. With a diameter of 27.5 meters and a height of 90 feet, the central dome is imposing in size.