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Central Islamic Lands

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Richard Ettinghausen et al.

From The Art and Architecture of Islam: 650-1250
© 1987 Yale University Press
Reproduced by permission of Yale University Press


The Saljuqs, Artuqids, Zangids, and Ayyubids in Iraq, Anatolia, Syria, Palestine, and Egypt: Architecture and Architectural Decoration

In contrast to early Islamic times, it is not possible, at the present stage of research and interpretation, to provide a single, continuous, chronological account of medieval (eleventh to thirteenth centuries) architecture in the central Islamic lands which were not under Fatimid rule. Two approaches could be proposed. One is dynastic and political; it would identify monuments and architectural characteristics according to definable areas of shared power and culture. Seljuq rule in Anatolia or Ayyubid control of Egypt and the Levant led to an architecture with recognizable forms of its own. But it is difficult to identify an independent set of forms associated with the Zangids of the Jazira and Syria, the Artuqids in northern Jazira, or Abbasid rule in Baghdad. Therefore, we have preferred a second approach, which is to present these lands in terms of four geographical regions with partly interlocking dynastic histories: Iraq; Jazira; Syria with Palestine and Egypt as well as a brief foray into Yemen; Anatolia. Chronological sequence will suffer no doubt, but it is possible to argue that, during a politically complicated period such as this one, architectural consistency lies in lands rather than in rulers.

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