Tuesday, September 03, 2013
Styles of Minarets in Qatar
Over the years I've taken pictures of a number of mosques in Qatar because I always found the architecture interesting especially the minarets. It might take a while to notice that there appears to be no single style for minarets, the look of the minaret changes a lot from mosque to mosque. I decided to compare some of my pictures to mosques from other parts of the world to see if there was some sort of inspiration to the various styles, and sure enough there were. Minarets in Qatar can have the look of minarets from North Africa to India.
I’ve given each style its own name -- I have no idea what the official name is so I’m going with my own. If you don't like laymen descriptions of architecture leave the post now.
Back in the day the main building material was mud and clay brick and mosques were made from this material as well. This limited the height of the minaret, which I’m sure was fine since someone had to climb up to the top. The minaret also had to be wide enough for an interior stairway so traditional Qatari minarets were shorter and wider than other styles.
Here's an example from an abandoned mosque in Al-Ruwais in the far north of Qatar.
And at a photography exhibition I took a picture of a great photo by Khalid Al Maslimani (sp?) that showed another example.
Many newer mosques in Qatar have kept that style, especially in areas that they like to keep the old architecture. The following two examples are from Souq Waqif and the last one from the cultural area in Wakra (still under construction)
I also think this style was the inspiration for the minaret at larger mosques such as the State Mosque and the large mosque near Souq Al Jaber. The State Mosque even kept the big square base.
Samarra (Ziggurat) Style
There is a very old mosque in Samarra, Iraq, that has an almost unique style of minaret, a very wide base with a spiraling staircase around the outside.
I don't think I need to point out which minaret in Doha may have been inspired by the Samarra one:
Maybe there’s also a similarity to minarets from the famous Ibn Talun Mosque in Cairo but I'm more inclined to go with Samarra.
This is a very distinct style used by the Ottoman Empire, and since the Ottoman Empire covered much of the Islamic world minarets in this style can be found throughout the Middle East. Ottoman minarets are very tall and narrow, ending in a distinct point. There will be one or more balcony-type structures surrounding the column at periodic intervals, something you don't typically see in other styles. I'm going to assume that the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul serve as some of the best examples of this type of architecture.
And like I said before the style is predominant throughout the former Ottoman Empire. The following examples are from Bodrum in southwest Turkey, two examples from Macedonia, one from Damascus, and one from the island of Kos in Greece.
Surprisingly, despite the fact that Qatar was under Ottoman control, there are not many mosques that have minarets in an Ottoman style. I'm going to speculate that since Ottoman control ended in the early 20th century minarets throughout Qatar were still in the traditional style as the building materials were not available to create the much taller and narrower Ottoman minarets. Once those materials became available, long after the Ottomans had left, Qatar didn't really need to build those types of minarets.
There is one possible example though, the “Green Mosque” next to the Emiri Diwan. Even then one could argue it's not entirely in the Ottoman style as it has a prominent open-air portion near the top that my other examples do not have.
So if the Green Mosque minaret isn’t Ottoman, then what is it? This architectural style with one or more balconies and an open area at the top is actually pretty common in Qatar, though typically the minarets are not as tall and narrow as the Green Mosque.
So off to the internet to find examples that may indicate where the style originated. Boy was I surprised when I recognized the style in a picture of one of the most famous buildings in the world:
Yup, the Taj Mahal, a tomb built by one of the greatest Mughal rulers. Many mosques throughout the Mughal Empire had this open-space minaret design (the Empire covered what is now most of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan), some with pointed roofs, others with rounded roofs.
Was it the inspiration for the minarets at the Sacred Mosque in Mecca?
But it's difficult for me to say whether Mughal designs inspired or were inspired by . . .
Many Persian minarets also have a similar open-spaced feature at the top of the minaret, and I've seen a few pictures that are exactly like the minarets of the Taj Mahal, only more colorful. In fact, Persian minarets in general tend to have lots of color, especially turquoise.
Here’s some examples:
There is one good example in Qatar of a Persian minaret that I know of, at Katara.
One of the earliest Islamic dynasties was the Abbasids who overthrew the Umayyeds in the 8th century. A minaret built by the Abbasids in one of the most famous mosques in the world, the Umayyed Mosque in Damascus, has an unusual square design.
This in turn inspired minarets in other parts of the Islamic world over the centuries. It's hard to say if this was the inspiration for some minarets throughout Qatar. Not all are square but appear to have a similar "house-on-top" look. Still might be more Mughal influence rather than Abbasid. You be the judge:
That covers all the major styles of minaret that I could find in Qatar. If you know of others, or know where certain styles may have come from, let me know. I’m still looking for good examples of minarets in the style from mosques in Mecca and Medina. I’ll leave you with a modern design, from the mosque at Aspire that I refer to as the “Jetson’s Mosque”.