Architecture of the Almohad Caliphate - Islamic Empire
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Almohad architecture

Koutoubia
Minaret of
Koutoubia mosque,
Marrakesh
(Morocco, 1100s AD)

When the Almohads first conquered Morocco and Spain from the Almovarids in the 1100s AD, they showed their strength by building monuments in the cities of their new empire. They built this mosque right over the top of the old Almovarid palace in Marrakesh! Also, the Almoravids had not allowed people to build minarets, which they thought were wrong, so the Almohads built lots of minarets to show that things had changed. An architect named Jabir designed the Koutoubia minaret. (Compare this minaret to the Romanesque bell tower of St. Germain des Pres in Paris, which was built about a hundred years earlier).

Giralda
The Giralda in Seville (1184 AD)

Jabir, who designed the Koutoubia minaret, also designed minarets in many other places, like Seville in southern Spain. Most of this minaret is Almohad (though Christians added the very top part in the 1300s). The tower has no stairs; instead it has ramps inside it, wide enough so that the muezzin (the man who sang the call to prayer) could ride a horse up all the ramps to the top. People sometimes say that the Giralda was the tallest building in the world at that time, but actually the Pharos (Lighthouse) of Alexandria was probably considerably taller, and it was still standing until about 1310 AD.

Learn by doing: check out a church tower or minaret near your house. Is it the same as these? Why or why not?
Nasrid architecture

Bibliography and further reading about Almohad architecture:

Nasrid architecture
Ottoman Architecture
More Islamic architecture
More about the Islamic Empire
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Professor Carr

Karen Eva Carr, PhD.
Assoc. Professor Emerita, History
Portland State University

Professor Carr holds a B.A. with high honors from Cornell University in classics and archaeology, and her M.A. and PhD. from the University of Michigan in Classical Art and Archaeology. She has excavated in Scotland, Cyprus, Greece, Israel, and Tunisia, and she has been teaching history to university students for a very long time.

Professor Carr's PSU page

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Now that the weather's nice, try some of these outdoor activities! How about bicycle polo, or archery for a Medieval Islam day? Or kite flying or making a compass for a day in Medieval China? How about making a shaduf for a day in Ancient Egypt? Holding an Ancient Greek Olympic Games or a medieval European tournament? Building a Native American wickiup?