10 Islamic Architecture Masterpieces

The Islamic world’s architectural legacy is astoundingly rich. The most well-known mosques, palaces, tombs, and fortresses are included here.

1. The Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal

Mumtaz Mahal, the third and favorite wife of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan (reigned 1628-58), died in childbirth while giving birth to the couple’s fourteenth child in 1631. Devastated, the emperor commissioned the Taj Mahal, a gigantic tomb complex on the Yamuna (Jumna) River’s southern bank that took more than 20 years to build. The Taj Mahal is perhaps arguably the most well-known example of Islamic architecture in the world, with the possible exception of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.

2. The Alhambra Palace

The Alhambra Palace
The Alhambra Palace

The Alhambra is a palace erected in the 14th century by rulers of the Muslim Nasrid dynasty (1238-1492) on a hill overlooking the Spanish city of Granada. Although some elements of the palace have been demolished, three components remain: a castle (Alcazaba, or al-Qasbah) on the west end of the hill, a royal house to the east, and the Generalife, a collection of pavilions and gardens. The Alhambra’s courtyards and chambers are lavishly adorned with colorful tiles, sculpted plaster, carved wood, and calligraphy. The beautifully carved geometric stalactite decorations (a repeating pattern in Islamic architecture called muqarnas in Arabic) that cover the rooms around the Court of the Lions are among the most noteworthy decorative elements.