The Architecture of the Umayyad: the First Islamic Dynasty in Syria (661-750)
Umayyad is the first great Islamic dynasty, whose history can be divided into two periods; the Umayyad dynasty in Syria (661-750), and the Umayyad dynasty in Spain (756 - 1031). This article will shed light on the architectural production of the Umayyad dynasty in Syria, which was established in 661 by Mu'awiya, a companion of the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh). This period was characterized by the shift of the capital of Muslims from Medina in Saudi Arabia to Damascus in Syria. This political change was an important development in Islamic architecture because the Umayyad blended their culture with that of the conquered countries. However, the Umayyad architecture adopted an architectural language inspired by the forms and techniques of the early Christian and Byzantine cultures.
Image credit: Great Mosque of Ba'albek Restoration, Baalbeck, Lebanon, 7th century
Image credit: Great Mosque of Sana'a, Sana'a, Yemen, 8th century
The mosques of the Umayyad were characterized by its monumental size and its design followed the prototype of the prophet’s house, which was a courtyard and a hypostyle hall for prayer. They were constructed from the available local materials such as stone and brick and the interiors were decorated by geometrical and floral-patterns marble. The most important living and preserved examples that express the architecture of this period include, Al-Aqsa Mosque, the Dome of the Rock (691) in Jerusalem, and the Great Mosque of Damascus (706-715) in Syria.
Image credit: Al-Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem, 8th century
It is usually agreed upon that 'Abd al-Malik (685-705), the Umayyad Caliph who was the patron of the Dome of the Rock, started the construction of al-Aqsa Mosque at the end of the 7th century.
Image credit: The Dome of the Rock was built by the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik and completed in 691 AD. It represents the glory of Islamic architecture at that time.
Image credit: The Great mosque of Danascus was built by the Umayyad caliph Al-Walid in (706-715)..
Palatial architecture was also very important to the Umayyad to express their power and wealth. The most famous examples, which were also well known as desert architecture, are Qasr al-Hallabat, ( 8th century) in Jordan, Khirbat al-Mafjar (8th century) in Palastine, Qusayr 'Amra (712-715), Qasr al-Hayr (727-9) in Syria, and Mshatta (744). The design concept was almost similar for all the palaces and it usually comprised a square plan, buttressed semi-circular towers and fortified walls. The interiors of the palaces were ornamented with stucco, mosaics and sculptures.
Image credit: Qasr al-Hallabat and Hammam al-Sarakh, Qasr al-Hallabat, Jordan, 8th century
Image credit: Qasr al-Hayr al-Gharbi, Qasr al-Hayr al-Gharbi, Syria 8th century
Image credit: Khirbat al-Mafjar, Jericho, Palestine, 8th century
In 750 AD, The Umayyad dynasty was defeated by the Abbasid, who claimed descent from Abbas, uncle of the prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Again the capital of the Muslims Empire moved from Damascus to Baghdad, which was newly established. The Abbasid massacred all members of the Umayyad family except Abdel-Rahman I, who was able to escape to Spain and established the first Islamic dynasty in Cordoba.
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