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The Arabesque:

An Introduction

The Arabesque: An Introduction is an initiative to interpret and communicate the concept behind the arabesque, a major stylised decorative ornament in the Islamic arts. Sprung mainly from bifurcated leaves and tendrils, the pattern and rhythm of the design are further nurtured by a subtle understanding of geometry, lending us a mirror of its philosophical order. Ever versatile in perpetuation, the arabesque remains true to the principles of symmetry, balance and infinity, be it applied free-flowing or a compartment confined. The catalogue therefore attempts to trace the birth of this particular art and its growth into multiple forms, all while closely identifying its various cultural expressions as it integrates with pre-established, traditional artistic preferences from regions far and wide.     

The Arabesque exhibition, staged in collaboration with the Islamc Arts Museum Malaysia, will be on display from October 2018 until September 2019.

Tarek Swelim Art Historian Egyptology Islamic Art Ib Tulun Book

Ibn Tulun: His Lost City and Great Mosque

Ahmad ibn Tulun (835-84), the son of a Turkic slave in the Abbasid court of Baghdad, became the founder of the first independent state in Egypt since antiquity, and builder of Egypt's short-lived third capital of the Islamic era, al-Qata'i' and its great congregational mosque. After recounting the story of Ibn Tulun and his successors, architectural historian Tarek Swelim presents a topographic survey of al-Qata'i', a city lost since its complete destruction in 905. He then provides a detailed architectural analysis of the Mosque of Ibn Tulun, which was spared the destruction and is now the oldest surviving mosque in Egypt and Africa, from the time of its completion until today. Rare archival illustrations and early photographs document the changing appearance and uses of the mosque in modern times, while extraordinary 3D computer renderings take us back in time to recreate its architectural development through its early centuries. Plans, drawings, and maps complement the history, while striking modern color photographs showcase the elegant simplicity of the building's architecture and decoration.
This definitive and generously illustrated book will appeal to scholars and students of Islamic art history, as well as to anyone interested in or inspired by the beauty of early mosque architecture.

Tarek Swelim Art Historian Egyptology Islamic Art Ibn Tulun Book Old Cairo

The history and Reliigous Heritage of OLD Cairo

Just to the south of modern Cairo stands the historic enclave known as Old Cairo, which grew up in and around the Roman fortress of Babylon, and which today hosts a unique collection of monuments that attest to the shared cultural heritage of ancient Egyptians, Christians, Jews, and Muslims.
In this lavishly illustrated celebration of a very special place, renowned photographer Sherif Sonbol's remarkable images of the fortress, churches, synagogue, and mosque illuminate the living fabric of the ancient and medieval stones, while Gawdat Gabra describes the history of Old Cairo from the time of the ancient Egyptians and the Romans to the founding of the first Muslim city of al-Fustat. Stefan Reif focuses on the Jewish history of the area, exploring the famous Genizah documents found in the Ben Ezra Synagogue that tell so much about everyday life in medieval Egypt. Gertrud van Loon looks at the early Coptic Christian churches, some of the oldest in the world, and Tarek Swelim describes the arrival of the Muslims in the seventh century, their establishment of al-Fustat on the edge of Old Cairo, and the building of the Mosque of 'Amr ibn al-'As, the oldest mosque in Africa.

Tarek Swelim Art Historian Egyptology Islamic Art Tarek Sweim Ibn Tulun Publication

The Minaret Of Ibn Tulun: Reconsidered

Cairo Heritage in Honor of Laila ‘Ali Ibrahim (AUC Press) Cairo, 2000.

In this article, Tarek Swelim suggests a new date for the minaret of Ibn Tulun; offering historical facts and architectural evidence to suggest that its’ first two stories are in fact Ayyubid, while the upper story can be traced to the 13th century Mamluk period.

Tarek Swelim Art Historian Egyptology Islamic Art Tarek Sweim Antinopolis Publication


entry in The 'Encyclopedia of the Archaeology of Ancient Egypt'

Edited by Kathryn Bard, Routledge London & New York (1999).

This entry provides a simplified description of the fantastic city built along the Nile by the great emperor Hadrian for his beloved Antinos. Although the city no longer survives today, this comprehensive article examines the topographical surveys made by the Napoleonic expedition.

Tarek Swelim Art Historian Egyptology Islamic Art Tarek Sweim Sinan Pasha Publication

"An Interpretation of the Mosque of Sinan Pasha in Cairo"

Muqarnas X (1999).

This article is one of the very few recent publications exploring the mosque of Sinan Pasha in Bulak. In it, Tarek Swelim discusses the new architectural styles and experiments that were introduced when the Ottoman Turks started ruling Egypt in 1517 AD.


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