The Info List - Mashrabiya

A mashrabiya (Arabic: مشربية‎), also either shanshūl (شنشول) or rūshān (روشان), is a type of projecting oriel window enclosed with carved wood latticework located on the second story of a building or higher, often lined with stained glass. The mashrabiya is an element of traditional Arabic architecture used since the Middle Ages up to the mid-20th century. It is mostly used on the street side of the building; however, it may also be used internally on the sahn (courtyard) side.[1] Mashrabiyas were mostly used in houses and palaces although sometimes in public buildings such as hospitals, inns, schools and government buildings. They are found mostly in the Mashriq
– i.e. the eastern part of the Arab world, but some types of similar windows are also found in the Maghreb
(the western part of the Arab world). They are very prevalent in Iraq, the Levant, Hejaz
and Egypt. They are mostly found in urban settings and rarely in rural areas. Basra
is often called "the city of Shanasheel". The style may be informally known as a "harem window" in English.


1 Etymology 2 History 3 Construction 4 Utilisation

4.1 Social 4.2 Environment 4.3 Architecture

5 Alternate spellings 6 See also 7 Further reading 8 References


Restored mashrabiya from the Aljafería
palace (10th century), in Spain.

is derived from the triliteral root Š-R-B, which generally denotes drinking or absorbing. There are two theories for its name. The more common theory is that the name was originally for a small wooden shelf where the drinking water pots were stored. The shelf was enclosed by wood and located at the window in order to keep the water cool. Later on, this shelf evolved until it became part of the room with a full enclosure and retained the name despite the radical change in use.[2] The less common theory is that the name was originally mashrafiya, derived from the verb shrafa, meaning to overlook or to observe. During the centuries, the name slowly changed because of sound change and the influence of other languages.[2] History[edit] The date of their origin is unknown; however, the earliest evidence of the mashrabiya in its current form dates back to the 12th century in Baghdad, during the Abbasid
period. Whatever is left in Arabic cities was mostly built during the late 19th century and early-to-mid-20th century, but some mashrabiyas are three to four hundred years old. In Iraq during the 1920s and 1930s, the designs of the latticework were influenced by the Art Deco and Art Nouveau movements of the time. That was evident in Al Rasheed street mashrabiyas until the late 1960s, when most of them were demolished. Construction[edit]

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Traditionally, houses are built of adobe, brick or stone or a combination. Wooden houses are not popular and hardly ever found. Building heights in urban setting range from two to five floors (although Yemeni houses can reach up to seven floors) with the mashrabiyas on the second level and above. The roofs are usually built using wooden or steel beams with the areas between filled with brick in a semi vault style[dubious – discuss]. These beams were extended over the street, enlarging the footprint of the upper floor. The upper floor is then enclosed with latticework and roofed with wood. The projection is cantilevered and does not bear the weight of traditional building materials. There are different types of mashrabiyas, and the latticework designs differ from region to region. Most mashrabiyas are closed where the latticework is lined with stained glass and part of the mashrabiya is designed to be opened like a window, often sliding windows to save space; in this case the area contained is part of the upper floor rooms hence enlarging the floor plan. Some mashrabiyas are open and not lined with glass; the mashrabiya functions as a balcony and the space enclosed is independent of the upper floor rooms and accessed through those rooms with windows[dubious – discuss] opening towards it. Sometimes the woodwork is reduced making the mashrabiya resemble a regular roofed balcony; this type of mashrabiya is mostly used if the house is facing an open landscape such as a river, a cliff below or simply a farm, rather than other houses. Utilisation[edit]

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Social[edit] One of the major purposes of the mashrabiya is privacy, an essential aspect of Arabic culture.[3]:3, 5–6 A good view of the street can be obtained by the occupants without being seen.[4] Environment[edit] The wooden screen with openable windows gives shade and protection from the hot summer sun, while allowing the cool air from the street to flow through.[4] The designs of the latticework usually have smaller openings in the bottom part and larger openings in the higher parts, hence causing the draft to be fast above the head and slow in lower parts. This provides a significant amount of air moving in the room without causing it to be uncomfortable. The projection of the mashrabiya achieves several purposes. It allows air from three sides to enter, even if the wind outside is blowing parallel to the house façade; it serves the street and in turn the neighborhood, as a row of projected mashrabiyas provides shelter for those in the streets from rain or sun. The shade in normally narrow streets will cool the air in the street and increase the pressure as opposed to the air in the sahn, which is open to the sun making it more likely that air would flow towards the sahn through the rooms of the house. The mashrabiya also provides protection and shade for the ground floor windows that are flat and usually unprotected. Architecture[edit] One of the major architectural benefits is correcting the footprint shape of the land. Due to winding and irregular streets, plots of land are also commonly irregular in shape, while the house designs are regular squares and rectangles. This would result in irregular shapes of some rooms and create dead corners. The projection allows the shapes of the rooms on the upper floors to be corrected, and thus the entire plot of land to be utilised. It also increases the usable space without increasing the plot size. On the street side, in addition to their ornamental advantage, mashrabiyas served to provide enclosure to the street and a stronger human scale.[4] Alternate spellings[edit]

Meshrebiya or mushrabiyah Meshrebeeyeh, mashrebeeyeh or mashrebeeyah

See also[edit]

Jharokha Brise soleil Arab World Institute Latticework Samta Benyahia

Further reading[edit]

Jaccarini, C. J. (2002). "Il-Muxrabija, wirt l-Iżlam fil-Gżejjer Maltin" (PDF). L-Imnara (in Maltese). Rivista tal-Għaqda Maltija tal-Folklor. 7 (1). Archived from the original (PDF) on 18 April 2016.  Glossary and Useful Terms in Islamic art and architecture John Feeney, The magic of the mashrabiyas, 1974, Saudi Aramco World Ching, Francis D. K. (1995) A Visual Dictionary of Architecture Van Nostrand Reinhold, NY "Moucharaby". (Encyclopædia Britannica). Mashrabiya, A Day of Art and Adventure. touregypt.net.


^ Mohamed, Jehan (2015). "The Traditional Arts and Crafts of Turnery or Mashrabiya" (PDF). Rutgers. In partial fulfillment of M.A.: 1–33.  ^ a b Azzopardi, Joe (April 2012). "A Survey of the Maltese Muxrabijiet" (PDF). Vigilo. Valletta: Din l-Art Helwa (41): 26–33. ISSN 1026-132X. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 November 2015.  ^ Abdel-Gawad, Ahmed (2012). Veiling Architecture: Decoration of Domestic Buildings in Upper Egypt
1672-1950. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press. ISBN 978-977-416-487-3.  ^ a b c "Looking at the world outside". Times of Malta. 30 September 2015. Archived from the original on 1 October 2015. 

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