Islamic architecture synthesized Byzantine, Christian, Copts and other elements. They lacked of a personal style so they took it from the different areas under their control. The main characteristics are:
· Buildings are not very high and they integrate with the surrounding landscape. Horizontality is dominant, the same as in their haimas.
· The most important building is the Mosque, that is at the same time, meeting and pray centre. In addition, they built palaces, mausoleums, medersas, and other buildings.
· There is not a big interest in building problems. Buildings tend to be cubic volumes covered with spheres and minarets and towers.
· The column and pillar continue being the main support, but due to the light covers, they do not need to be too strong, and tend to be slim.
· Vaults are of great variety: domes, ribbed vaults, gallonaded, pierced.
· From the Visigoths they took the horse-shoe arch that combined with the polylobulate, ogive horse-shoe. In addition, they have polychrome voussoirs.
· Especial taste for internal decoration, sometimes done in materials of poor quality. The subjects could be plants, animals, calligraphy or others, and colour had an important role. It is abstract frequently.
· In decoration human figure does not appear normally. Anyway, it was not forbidden by religion and there are examples of this, especially in non religious buildings.
It is the main building of Islamic art. It is the place for praying and has just a few needs. It is a wide space, free of impurities, sometimes even open, looking at La Mecca. Its structure consists of the following parts:
· Sahn or courtyard, opened and discovered, surrounded by arches or a wall and with a fountain or sabil in the middle.
· The minaret or tower to call to the community.
· The pay room or haran, perpendicular to the wall or quibla or wall in which the mihrab or holiest part of the builing is.
· The maxura or space near the mihrab reserved for the caliph.
· The mimbar or pulpit from which spiritual leaders read the Coran.
· The Iwan or vaulted rooms closing the courtyard around the Mosque in three sides.
There are several types of mosques with local characteristics. Materials can also vary due to the different regions and chronology because they continue being built even nowadays.
Other buildings are:
Madrassa or medersa: it was the Koran school. It was linked to a mosque and normally counted with several rooms were the students lived.
Caravanserai: it was a kind of hotel for both people and animals. There were on the commerce routes and were simple buildings, protected against the elements, which tended to have two floors: the bottom one for animals and products and the top one for people.
Fortress: they were common to protect cities. There were built in a stepped area easier to defend. They were surrounded by a wall and could have crenelletions at the top.
Palaces: they were luxurious residences. Their structure would vary depending on the area and the period in which they were built.
Houses: They were simple and they consisted of two different parts, a common one to receive visits and the private one. They were organised around courtyards.
Bridges: They were a public work but sometimes they were covered.
Other buildings: there was a quite wide variety but some of the most original are those used for keeping and containing water. Being a group of population coming from the dessert it is easy to understand the special care for such an important element.
There are different manifestations, with several styles.
The first is the Caliph style, being its main building Cordoba’s mosque. It has all the parts of a mosque but the most important is the hypostyle room, with several naves divided by slim columns in which stand the double-coloured arches.
Almohad and Almoravid style: it is directly linked with the North of Africa. The main manifestation are towers as the Giralda and palaces such as the Aljaferia, in Saragossa.
Nazari style: the most characteristic building is the Alhambra palace. Organize around a series of courtyards, it appears as the perfect combination of architecture and nature. Decoration is extremely important and there is an especial trend to include water in the building.
Mudejar style: it was that of the Muslins living in Christian territory. They used the same structural elements with an important use of brick. Buildings could be churches, as in San Martin, in Teruel.