Lecture 1. An introduction to Islamic water architecture

Early Islamic water architecture made an extensive use of existing traditions prior to the conquest, which originated from two main sources, the Orient and the Mediterranean Basin. All along Maghreb’s shores Islam developed a unique water architecture tradition combining know how imported from the three neighboring continents of the Mediterranean basin, Africa, Asia (mainly Mesopotamia and Persia) and Europe (mainly Greece and Roman empire). Islam rulers proved their powerful ability and flexibility to adapt to climate and landscape situations wherever they settled. Its water architecture testifies to constant renewal and invention, from pre-Islamic to modern times, with a steady sense of continuity in solving local everyday life issues, tied together with a constant and strong faith to its oriental and Islamic founding principles. This lecture is organized in three parts. The first part reviews the origins and the development path of the Islamic water civilization, by describing the heritage received from the major pre-islamic legacies upon which the Islamic hydraulics built up: Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, Syria, the Nabatene, the Saharan oases of the Berber tribes, and the Roman empire. The second part introduces some important milestones by which the long road of Islam’s expansion to the east and west passed by. Major Islamic urban creations, some landscape, palaces, gardens and architectural typologies, a few of the hydraulic technologies and infrastructures are overviewed here, many of which being further detailed in the other lectures of this module. The third and final part entitled “Transmissions and heritage” tries to explain how the water architecture heritage from Islam’s golden age has come down to us throughout history. Two kinds of transmission vectors are emphasized, the vernacular path and the scholar path, as well as their relations with the power of the rulers.

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