Muqarnas is a type of corbel
In architecture a corbel is a piece of stone jutting out of a wall to carry any superincumbent weight. A piece of timber projecting in the same way was called a "tassel" or a "bragger". The technique of corbelling, where rows of corbels deeply keyed inside a wall support a projecting wall or...

 used as a decorative device in traditional Islamic
Islamic architecture
Islamic architecture encompasses a wide range of both secular and religious styles from the foundation of Islam to the present day, influencing the design and construction of buildings and structures in Islamic culture....

 architecture. The term is similar to mocárabe
Mocárabe, Honeycomb work, or Stalactite work is an ornamental design used in certain types of Islamic architecture that spread throughout the Islamic world in the 12th century. The design consists of a complex array of vertical prisms resembling stalactites...

, but mocárabe only refers to designs with formations resembling stalactites, by the use of elements known as alveole.

Muqarnas takes the form of small pointed niches, stacked in tiers projecting beyond those below and can be constructed in brick, stone, stucco
Stucco or render is a material made of an aggregate, a binder, and water. Stucco is applied wet and hardens to a very dense solid. It is used as decorative coating for walls and ceilings and as a sculptural and artistic material in architecture...

 or wood. They may then be decorated with painted tiles, or paint on wood or plaster. They are often applied to domes, pendentive
A pendentive is a constructive device permitting the placing of a circular dome over a square room or an elliptical dome over a rectangular room. The pendentives, which are triangular segments of a sphere, taper to points at the bottom and spread at the top to establish the continuous circular or...

s, cornices, squinch
A squinch in architecture is a construction filling in the upper angles of a square room so as to form a base to receive an octagonal or spherical dome...

es and the undersides of arches and vaults
Vault (architecture)
A Vault is an architectural term for an arched form used to provide a space with a ceiling or roof. The parts of a vault exert lateral thrust that require a counter resistance. When vaults are built underground, the ground gives all the resistance required...


Muqarnas is the Arabic word for stalactite vault, an architectural ornament developed around the middle of the 10th century in northeastern Iran and almost simultaneously, but apparently independently, in central North Africa. It involves three-dimensional architectural decorations composed of niche-like elements arranged in tiers. The two-dimensional projection of muqarnas vaults consists of a small variety of simple geometrical elements.

The earliest example of muqarnas in Iraq can be found near Samarra
Sāmarrā is a city in Iraq. It stands on the east bank of the Tigris in the Salah ad-Din Governorate, north of Baghdad and, in 2003, had an estimated population of 348,700....

, at Sharaf al-Dawla Mausoleum, also known as Imam Dur Mausoleum, the Uqaylid
Uqaylid Dynasty
The Uqailid or Uqaylid Dynasty was a Shi'a Arab dynasty with several lines that ruled in various parts of Al-Jazira, northern Syria and Iraq in the late tenth and eleventh centuries. The main line, centered in Mosul, ruled from 990 to 1096.-Rise:...


Examples can be found in the Alhambra
The Alhambra , the complete form of which was Calat Alhambra , is a palace and fortress complex located in the Granada, Andalusia, Spain...

 in Granada
Granada is a city and the capital of the province of Granada, in the autonomous community of Andalusia, Spain. Granada is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, at the confluence of three rivers, the Beiro, the Darro and the Genil. It sits at an elevation of 738 metres above sea...

, Spain, the Abbasid Palace in Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

, and the mausoleum of Sultan Qaitbay
Al-Ashraf Sayf al-Din Qa'it Bay was the eighteenth Burji Mamluk Sultan of Egypt from 872-901 A.H. . He was Circassian by birth, and was purchased by the ninth sultan Barsbay before being freed by the eleventh sultan Jaqmaq...

, Cairo
Cairo , is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in the Arab world and Africa, and the 16th largest metropolitan area in the world. Nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Minarets" for its preponderance of Islamic architecture, Cairo has long been a centre of the region's political and cultural life...

, Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

. Muslim craftsmen created large rectangular roofs with muqarnas-style decoration for the 12th century Cappella Palatina
Cappella Palatina
The Palatine Chapel is the royal chapel of the Norman kings of Sicily situated on the ground floor at the center of the Palazzo Reale in Palermo, southern Italy....

 in Palermo
Palermo is a city in Southern Italy, the capital of both the autonomous region of Sicily and the Province of Palermo. The city is noted for its history, culture, architecture and gastronomy, playing an important role throughout much of its existence; it is over 2,700 years old...

, Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

, and other important buildings in Norman Sicily.

Muqarnas display radial symmetry based upon N-gonal symmetry. The number of unique tiles possible is derived from N = N/2 - 1. N must be a rather small number to avoid impractically thin muquarnas tiles. There are an unlimited number of muqarnas tile sets, because of the wide variety of tile profile design possibilities. Computer graphics today allow the design of novel muqarnas compositions not found in the historical record.

External links

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