Although today we associate Muslims with the middle east, the artistic stamp of the Islamic empire has been left on countries from as far west as Spain to as far east as Indonesia (the largest Muslim country by population), dating back to the seventh century. Encompassing Ottoman and Mamluk art, and influenced by both classical and Byzantine styles that came before, the ceramics, manuscripts, mosaics and towers of the Islamic world reveal much about its history and cultural development. The displays in this gorgeous ‘coffee-table’ type book, The Treasures of Islam, are not simply exotic eye-candy – although the rich patterns and jewel-like colours can provide hours of happy gazing. The author, a professor of Islamic Art and Architecture at the American University in Cairo, presents these treasures in rough geographic and chronological order with historic background, religious context, and close-up photos of intricate architectural detail, illuminated manuscripts and even some basic floor plans to some of the bigger structures, like the complex of Sultan Hasan, with its qibla iwan (hall of two hundred lamps). Some of the more impressive masterpieces are showcased in golden ‘special feature’ pages, like the Dome of the Rock in the centre of al-Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary (aka the Temple Mount). Like any university professor would, O’Kane provides a bibliography for further reading, plus a basic glossary and a complete index for quick reference – although this is one book which should be savoured, not quickly read.
Click here to find it in the on-line catalogue at SPL.
In the Stratford Gazette on December 19, 2008


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