This series of short videos was created for visitors to the Islamic Middle East gallery at the V&A. The videos show some of the great historical buildings of the Islamic period. This is the architectural setting for which many of the objects on display in the gallery were made.
The Islamic period began with the rapid rise of Islam in the 7th century AD. The religion's founder, the Prophet Muhammad, was a political leader as well as a religious guide, and after his death in 632, his successors established a vast empire. By 750 it stretched from Spain and Morocco in the west to Central Asia and Afghanistan in the east. Two hundred years later this single Islamic empire had been replaced by a number of competing states. Despite their rivalries, the Muslim rulers of the time shared many ideas on culture and politics, as well as religion. This common Islamic heritage was maintained until the 1920s.
The videos show both secular and religious architecture from this long period. The first sequence, Three Palaces, shows surviving residences of Islamic rulers in Spain, Turkey and Iran. The subject of the second sequence, Mosques of the Middle East, is places of worship in Syria, Iran, Turkey and Egypt. The last of these short films, recorded in the mosque of Sultan Hasan in Cairo, shows worshippers gathering for the midday prayer on Friday, the main service of the week. It reminds us that Islamic art and architecture are still part of everyday life for an important part of the world's population.
Video: The Alhambra Palace, Granada, Spain
The Alhambra was the home of Spain's last Muslim rulers, the Nasrid dynasty. Most of what we see today was built between 1350 and 1400.
Video: The Topkapı Palace, Istanbul, Turkey
The Topkapı Palace was founded in 1459. It remained the the official residence of the Ottoman sultans for nearly 400 years.
Video: The Palace Complex, Isfahan, Iran
Isfahan became the capital of Iran about 1600 and retained the role for more than a century. The rulers of the period, the Safavid shahs, built an enormous palace complex there, of which several buildings survive.
Mosques of the Middle East
Video: The Umayyad Mosque, Damascus, Syria
The Umayyad mosque was completed by 715, and its fine mosaic decoration is more than 1000 years old.
Video: The Masjid-i Imam, Isfahan, Iran
Begun in 1611, the Masjid-i Imam was originally called the Masjid-i Shah, 'mosque of the Shah'. Nearly every surface of the building is decorated with patterned tilework.
Video: The Süleymaniye Mosque, Istanbul, Turkey
The Süleymaniye was completed in 1557. The prayer hall is covered by a huge central dome.
Video: Friday Prayers
The mosque of Sultan Hasan in Cairo, Egypt, was completed in 1361, and it is still in use after more than 650 years.