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by Anne Stierlin,Henri Stierlin

Few know of the reign of the Mamluks, but all will appreciate the beauty of the art and architecture they left behind. The reign of the Mamluks marked a breathtaking flowering of Islamic art. Their control of trade across much of the Middle East ensured a steady flow of funds into Mamluk coffers, which supported the artistic output that made Cairo, in the words of Ibn Khaldun, "the center of the universe and the garden of the world." This book shows off the majestic domes, courtyards, and soaring minarets that won Cairo its high praise. Those interested in Islamic history will be enthralled by the examination of sites, and general readers will enjoy learning more about this little-known facet of the world's cultural heritage.
Download Splendours of an Islamic World: The Art and Architecture of the Mamluks epub
ISBN: 1860642195
ISBN13: 978-1860642197
Category: Other
Subcategory: Humanities
Author: Anne Stierlin,Henri Stierlin
Language: English
Publisher: I. B. Tauris (December 15, 1997)
Pages: 224 pages
ePUB size: 1484 kb
FB2 size: 1488 kb
Rating: 4.2
Votes: 269
Other Formats: docx lrf mobi rtf

This is a beautiful collection of color photographs depicting Mamluk-era (1250-1517) architecture in Cairo. The author gives a detailed history of the Mamluks and their reign as well as background on the social and cultural life of Cairo at the time.
A variety of images are used to document the buildings and their architectural details: old watercolors and prints from the 18-19th centuries depict the buildings in a less congested Cairo, the Stierlin's color photographs show the buildings as they are today and floor plans assist the reader in visualizing the totality of the building, something no series of photographs can do. The very up close and detailed photographs of exterior architectural elements are exquisite.
For myself the highlight is the collection of interior shots showing the chiaroscuro and dappled light effect achieved in the interiors of Mamluk buildings. Photos showing the play of light through colorful stained glass windows are breathtaking. Other photos concentrate on the patterns created by streaming light coming through wrought iron grillwork. It is clear that many of the photos must have been taken with a wide-angle lens while the photographers were lying down on the ground looking upward. The effect is magnificent! And since the book format is very large you get the feeling you are actually looking up at the ceiling yourself.
An extremely well rounded book covering history, social life, and architecture, it includes a Bibliography, Glossary, a profusely illustrated checklist of pre-Mamluk Islamic architecture, and a chronological table of political and cultural events covering the 10th thru 16th centuries. There are excellent reference maps, one of the Middle East during the Mamluk period and a full-page Cairo street map keying each cited monument to the map and giving the building's dates. Although there is no Index, the Table of Contents is detailed in a way that makes one unnecessary.
This is a book you will treasure and enjoy for years to come.
Fabulously illustrated and superbly narrated; another gem.
The previous one-star reviewer is reviewing Islam and not the book! It seems he never read more than the book's title which was sufficient to provoke another defamation against Islam to be added to the deluge that has been flooding Amazon reviews and the media in general since 9/11.

This book does not discuss Islam's contribution to human civilization and arts - this is covered in other books that would fill entire libraries. If you're not into books then just look around at the numerous monuments that keep attracting millions of tourists every year from Alhambra in the West to Taj Mahal in the East. Unless you are blinded by prejudice, you cannot help but admire the stunning beauty of this original, highly refined and breathtaking art form which was born with Islam. Needless to say that the bulk of Islam's architectural heritage was built when most Europeans were living in primitive huts and the only art they knew was the art of burning heretics.

Regarding music, it is sufficient to say that the guitar (from the Arabic "Kithara") was invented by Zyryab, the great Arab musician, in 8th century Baghdad (remember, Beethoven was born a thousand years later!!) This Islamic instrument and many others such as rebec, lute, psaltery, cithara, tabor, timbale...etc were later used by Europeans as prototypes for virtually all the instruments of the symphonic orchestra except wind (i.e. piano, violin, cello, bass, percussions...etc.)

The Islamic civilization produced a flowering of artistic output on a scale and variety not seen in any of the world civilizations that preceded it - not only in architecture and music but in all artistic domains known in the pre-Renaissance period: from pottery that rivalled China to the most dazzling carpets, textiles & costumes, not to mention the stunning metalwork (inlaid brasses, bronze and silver); glassware & crystal; enamelled jewellery; woodwork; tile & Arabesque; paintings & miniatures; lacquer; calligraphy & book illuminations; landscape gardening;....and dancing, yes dancing, both religious (Sufi) and profane such as the art of belly-dancing which for centuries didn't seem to have been affected by any "modesty restrictions". Islamic art extended also to the art of gastronomy and produced ground-breaking innovations that permanently left their mark on the world such as eating dessert (Sugar from the Arabic "Sukkar") and drinking alcohol!!! (from the Arabic "Al-Kohol". Yes, Muslims invented the process of alcohol distillation and in their lands the world's finest alcoholic concoctions were made). Art permeated all aspects of Islamic life the same way it permeated every inch of Islamic buildings and monuments - even the weapons carried by Muslim warriors were "damascened" artistic marvels examples of which can be seen in museums around the world.

Those whose full time job is to malign Muslims and falsify their history find it convenient to direct their lies at the uncultured and ignorant masses whose knowledge about Islam comes from Fox News and Hollywood movies. It is therefore not surprising that absurd statements, which would normally cause laughter, such as "Art is virtually prohibited by Islam" find receptive ears in societies where the Fox-News level of culture and education is most prevalent, especially among those who cannot point out Texas -let alone Iraq- on a map. It should be noted, however, that those who deny the existence of Islamic art grudgingly exclude architecture and the reason is obvious: Islam's architectural splendours are too famous, their existence cannot be denied or hidden from even the guests of the Jerry-Springer show. Magnificent mosques and palaces are not kept in museums but have been standing in the open for centuries - decorating the skylines for everyone to see - as a testament to Islam's past glory and a source of mental depression for many pseudo historians and writers. They know that no amount of lies can prevent the millions of tourists from flocking to see these artistic wonders or make the queue outside the Alhambra any shorter so they are sadly compelled to add a caveat about the "architectural exception". Similarly, we often hear pathetic figures like Oriana Fallaci say "Muslims have always been primitive" then comes the caveat "but they were good at maths" only because Arabic numerals are in your face everyday.

Unlike architecture, other objects of art can be moved and it happens that the output of Islamic art has spread all over the globe so you can familiarize yourself with the less known but no less stunning examples of Islamic art by visiting the Islamic section of any of the world's major museums (Hermitage, Berlin, Louvre, British, V&A, Metropolitan....etc). You can also buy some of these books from Amazon:

"The Metropolitan Museum of Art: The Islamic World" by Stuart Cary Welch, "Islamic Metalwork" by James Allan, "Oriental Carpets in the Museum of Islamic Art, Berlin" by Friedrich Spuhler, "Islamic Textiles" by Patricia Baker, "Glass of the Sultans" by Stefano Carboni, "Islamic Jewelry in the Metropolitan Museum of Art" by Marilyn Jenkins, "Splendor of Islamic Calligraphy" by Abdelkebir Khatibi, "The Arts of Islamic Spain" by Jerrilyn D. Dodds, "Gardens in the Time of the Great Muslim Empires" by A. Petruccioli (ed.), "THE ART OF ISLAMIC TILE" by GERARD DEGEORGE *** "Dome of the Rock" by Oleg Grabar - this one will blow your mind away***, "Heavenly Art Earthly Beauty" by Mikhail Piotrovsky, "The Tale and the Image" by Eleanor Sims, "Peerless Images" by Boris I. Marshak, "Figurative Painting in Medieval Islam" by Michael Barry, "Mostly Minatures" by Oleg Grabar, "Lacquer of the Islamic Lands" by B.W. Robinson, "The "Splendors of Islam" by Dominique Clevenot, "The Islamic Arts of War" by David Alexander, "Music in the World of Islam" by Amnon Shiloah, "Paper before Print" by Jonathan M. Bloom, "Rediscovering the Oldest Dance" by Tazz Richards (ed.), "Islamic Trade and Italian Art" by Rosamond E. Mack, "Venice & the East" by Deborah Howard.

The book we are reviewing is specialized and limited in scope as it covers a very specific period (1250-1517) and a very specific art form (Mamluk architecture) which is most visible in old Cairo and Jerusalem (the book only covers Cairo). Therefore it will only give you a glimpse of a rich civilization that once stretched from the Pyrenees Mountains in Europe to the great walls of China, encompassing peoples from all races and colors. A civilization whose rulers were studying ancient Greek philosophy at the same time Charlemagne and his advisors in Europe were trying to learn to write their names. A civilization of unrivalled power at the time yet, according to most historians, was by far more humane and tolerant than anything that ever existed before it or followed it for many centuries. A civilization whose language and vocabulary were free from words such as Inquisition, pogroms, genocide, Nazi, holocaust, fascism, concentration camps, gulags, extermination...etc. A civilization that rescued the great heritage of ancient Greece from oblivion and went on to develop unprecedented breakthroughs in all domains be it agriculture, astronomy, biology, chemistry, engineering, geography, mathematics, medicine, philosophy, physics ...etc. A civilization that eventually changed the course of human destiny when it spread into Europe through Spain and Sicily and was the major factor that salvaged Europe from the dark ages and sparked the renaissance. A civilization that, unfortunately, went into the decline before its boundaries could reach the New World, otherwise 16 million Native Americans would never have been exterminated..