MASHRABIYA
ARCHITECTURE

“MASHRABIYAS” IN ARAB ARCHITECTURE

AN ELEMENT OF ARAB HERITAGE

MASHRABIYA is typically a type of Bay window masking the upper floors of a traditional Arabic building or an Arabic house. They are an integral part of Arab lifestyle since ages. Mashrabiyas are element of sustainable architecture ornamented with beautiful lattice work and occasionally with stained glass.

Let’s treat ourselves with a quick walk through the STREETS OF ARAB … and admire this heritage of Arabic architecture.

mashrabiya
Mashrabiya, Casa del Sol (Hearst Castle)

It sounds similar to the Harem window in English and serves similar purpose as Rajputi JHAROKHA-. It was designed to ensure the psychological, physical, social, environmental and religious requirements of the time and place in which they appear.

“MASHRABIYA” IN LITERAL TERMS

Mashrabiya (Arabic: مشربية‎) is known with names like

  • tarima, shanashil,
  • shanshūl (شنشول) or 
  • rūshān (روشان).

The most recognize theory about the origin of the term “Mashrabiya” comes from Arabic literature.

Mashrabeya_-_Al_Moez_
Mashrabeya_-_Al_Moez_

HISTORY OF MASHRABIYA

This Islamic architectural feature shares a vast history dating back to 12th century and Middle ages. Historical records show their presence in most part of the Middle Eastern cities, Baghdad, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Malta and other Saudi region.

With the arrival of 20th century, Arab underwent a huge modernization program which leads to the demolition of various historical Islamic architectural features along with Mashrabiyas. But this vernacular architecture is later uplifted back by Arabic arts communities, renowned architects like Rifat Chadirji and artist Lorna Selim, who played major role in revival of beautiful Mashrabiyas.

Their initiatives have done a huge contribution in survival, restoration and celebration of such prominent element which is – Traditional, Beautiful and Sustainable.

MASHRABIYAS ALL OVER MIDDLE EAST…

Mashrabiyas are a part of ancient architecture found in typical Arabic houses. Time also allows changes in the earlier structure of Mashrabiya and turned a Bay window into a highly decorative enclosed balcony.

In 14th century, Mashrabiyas gained huge attention of architects and craftsmen especially in Cairo, Egypt.

They were expensive and thus at first limited to the palaces of rulers and the homes of the wealthier merchants as an outward sign of success. Later, they were incorporated in Arabic buildings, Mosques, hospitals, schools and other government buildings. They became an eminent part of urban elite houses of Arab.

MASHRABIYAS FROM CAIRO, EGYPT

Mashrabiya

#mashrabiya #مشربية #Cairo #islamic #architecture #arabic #house #art #patterns//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

MASHRABIYA FROM MALTA, EUROPE

MASHRABIYA FROM LEBANON

MASHRABIYA- A MULTIPURPOSE STRUCTURE

Mashrabiyas is not just a window but a multifaceted architectural element.

STORAGE PLACE FOR WATER

It is derived from ‘sharaba’, means ‘to drink’ in Arabic. The place designated to Mashrabiya was usually used to store drinking water pots as the window as a means of ventilation helped the water to remain cool for longer period of time.

COZY CORNERS OF THE HOUSE

Mashrabiyas can be transformed from just a store space into a comfortable cozy corner of the house. They were fitted with cushioned beds or sometimes portable seating.

This allowed the occupants to recline in cool privacy while gazing down at the Arabian streets without actually being seen.

SOURCE OF VENTILATION

Mashrabiya became a popular source of ventilation in dense urban areas of Arab because of their presence on upper stories as thus creating zero hindrance in traffic in the busy streets of Arab.

SOURCE OF VENTILATION

They served multiple purposes like privacy, shade, controlling air and temperature inside the building, giving a comfy corner in the house and much more. In our post we have discussed in detail about- 10 features of Sustainable Mashrabiyas.

A TIMELESS ELEMENT- MASHRABIYA

With its multifaceted functions– Mashrabiya is an excellent example of Islamic architecture imbibing all aspects of Islamic lifestyle and culture in such a single beautiful element.

In those times, Mashrabiya’s arrangement, shape, material, color and intricacy was considered to be a display of the financial status of the occupants. The whole structure of Mashrabiya enhances the warmth of the building creating confidence and providing bliss to the occupants and inspires creative energy.

As the centuries passed, these ancient windows disappeared in the modern sleek design. Even architects who copy these components in their modern designs miss the pure essence of the structure as they create the design without the understanding of the implications and qualities this beautiful Mashrabiya holds.

Modern Architects or Designers must come forward to learn and appreciate these ancient components and make an effort to integrate them effectively into the architectural plans of present-day structures. Simple designs replaced the original intricacy as shown here-

MASHRABIYA AS AN INSPIRATION

Like here in the residential buildings in Abu Dhabi’s Masdar Institute which are inspired from ancient Mashrabiyas controlling interior heat and adds to the aesthetics.

MODERN MASHRABIYA
MODERN MASHRABIYA

Given the elegance, artistry, practicality and multifaceted approach of Mashrabiya, we will undoubtedly continue to explore new ways of including this beautiful element in modern architecture and will able to see interesting variations of this ancient Arabic structure long into the future….

REFERENCE: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mashrabiya

IMAGES: Wikimedia Commons

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8 thoughts on ““MASHRABIYAS” IN ARAB ARCHITECTURE”

  1. Amazing. Got a space in my room like that. Also, very inspiring how they have being reinterpreted in contemporary architecture. Very bioclimatic. Love the Mashrabiya Building facade and intermediate space…. light and heat control.

    1. Thank you, Pe. So nice to hear from you.
      And yes Mashrabiyas are great for sustainable architeture. It’s amazing that your room has got such space inspired from this ancient element.

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