Archaeological motifs

Motifs from perfume bottles found at Tel Abrak
El Hafit tombs
Ceramics at Sharjah museum

Modern Art

Hazem Mahdy Atman 2 automatic art
Hazem Mahdy Atman 3

article Hazem Mahdy automatic art

UAE colours The Drip Artist
National Day lips: Sisters Beauty Lounge is located in five prestigious locations throughout the country: Al Bateen Abu Dhabi, The Village Mall in Jumeirah, The Dubai Mall, Mirdif City Centre, and the Mall of the Emirates.

Islamic geometric design

Islamic geometric patterns derived from simpler designs used in earlier cultures: Greek, Roman, and Sasanian. They are one of three forms of Islamic decoration, the others being the arabesque based on curving and branching plant forms, and Islamic calligraphy; all three are frequently used together.

Many traditional patterns were based on is the division of the circle (as a symbol of unity and diversity) in nature into regular parts. From these divisions a regular grid of triangles and/or other polygons is established, on top of which the design is elaborated. Islamic designers used the full range of Archimedean tilings (comprised of simple polygons) first discovered by the Greeks, but added to and expanded upon these. The underling tiling pattern or ‘grid’ is usually hidden beneath the final design, but this hidden order gives the designs their meditative power.

Evolution of Islamic geometric patterns Yahya Abdullahin and, Mohamed Rashid Bin Embi

Islamic Geometric Patterns Wikipedia

The art of Islamic Pattern by Richard Henry

The earliest geometrical forms in Islamic art were occasional isolated geometric shapes such as 8-pointed stars and lozenges containing squares.

Geometric design in Great Mosque of Kairouan, Tunisia 836 ce
Design from mosque at Yazd, Iran

Persian ‘Girih’ or knot designs: From 1086 7- and 10-point girih patterns (with heptagons, 5- and 6-pointed stars, triangles and irregular hexagons) appear in the Friday Mosque at Isfahan. 10-point girih became widespread. Soon afterwards, sweeping 9-, 11-, and 13-point girih patterns were used in the Barsian Mosque, also in Persia.

Peter Cromwell analysis of Persian Girih design construction Study from Liverpool University

Alaeddin Mosque, Konya, Turkey

Geometric detail Alaeddin mosque, Konya Turkey 8 and 12 point girih designs from 1220 onwards

Girih pattern: Tomb of Hafez, Shiraz, Iran
Ibn Tulun Mosque, Cairo 879 ce – 6 and 8 point stars

Drawing Islamic Geometric Designs in Adobe Illustrator: see post

Draw freehand

Saudi Art

Saudi Arabian art includes both the arts of Bedouin nomads and those of the sedentary peoples of regions such as the Hejaz, Tihamah, Asir and the Najd. There is also a vibrant modern art scene in major cities highlighting social issues, with a number of prominent women artists.


The first mosque of Islam was the house of the Islamic prophet Mohammed in Medina. It is the prototype of all later sacred architecture of Islam. In it are most important the floor and carpet that are touched in prayer with the head.

Interior Mosque al Nabawi
Interior Mosque al Nabawi

Bedouin art

Tribal symbols referred to as “wusum” were carved by Bedouins during prehistoric times and are found as rock art in the hills and deserts of Arabia.

Saudi Rock art
Bedouin art
Bedouin art
Bedouin art
Bedouin art

Modern Art Movement

The Art Movement in Saudi Arabia started in the mid 60’s by a group of School Art Teachers and lasted till mid 80’s. Prince Khalid Al Faisal, himself a poet and artist, inaugurated a cultural centre in Asir Province to promote young fresh talent. It was from this project that one of Saudi Arabia’s most prominent contemporary artists, Ahmed Mater, emerged. In 1972 Mohammed Said Farsi became the mayor of the coastal city of Jeddah, making the city one of the largest open-air art galleries in the world. Artists incorporated media outlets such as photography and video technology.

Recently, there has been an increase in public galleries exhibiting modern art in Saudi Arabia. This supported by the influx of commercial galleries and a growing grass-roots movement of artists who have acquired international status.

Ahmed Mater Magnetism installation
Ahmed Mater Magnetism 2
Men At Work
Abdulnasser Gharem 2010

Contemporary Saudi Arabian women artists

Women are at the centre of the contemporary Saudi art scene, posing questions on the current political climate and women’s rights.

Alaan Artspace

Riyadh’s first curated contemporary art platform. The name Alaan, meaning ‘now’ in Arabic, is supposed to represent the energy and power of the prevailing art scene in Saudi Arabia. The exhibition shows works entirely created by women, who are both diverse methodologically and in terms of their artistic style. Further, the founder, creative director and chief curator are all women. The gallery also hosts master classes and workshops, organized by Sara Raza (the former curator of public programmes for London’s Tate Modern Museum), teaching prospective artists about contemporary art. Moreover, Alaan Artspace funds its non-commercial exhibitions, commissions new works and offers free non-profit educational arts programming through revenues from its shop, restaurant and café.

Manal Al Dowayan


Manal Al Dowayan (1973) was born in Dhahran, the Eastern province of Saudi Arabia. Initially she studied Systems Analysis (MSc) and worked as a Creative Director in an oil company. She was working and producing art for 7 years until she became a full time artist in 2010. This was a result of an active art industry that was evolving in her region. Dowayan has rapidly become one of the leading advocates of contemporary artists in the Middle East. She studied abroad in a number of art institutions including USA, London, Dubai and Bahrain. She works mostly with photographs and installations and her work is largely feminist in nature. Her most revered piece is ‘Suspended Together’, a flock of doves made from fiber-glass with stickers on their bodies . The doves are interlocked and made up of permission slips that women in Saudi Arabia must have signed by their husbands or male guardians to have permission to travel.

An internationally acclaimed artist, she has exhibited her work at the Venice Biennial Collateral show “The Future of a Promise” in 2011 and at the Victoria and Albert Museum as part of exhibition that showcases their public acquisitions of Middle East Photography titled “Light From the Middle East” in 2013 and the American Biennial Prospect New Orleans in an exhibition titled “Notes For Now” in 2014 where she showed a collection of 20 photographs and 11 videos titled “If I Forget You Don’t Forget Me” she also participated in Fluid Form: Contemporary Art from Arab Countries (2010) in Seoul  at Freedom to Create (2011) in New York  and at Simply Words in Switzerland (2012)

Samiah Khashoggi


Samiah Khashoggi, born 1958 in Abha, is an interior designer, painter, and organizer of Saudiaat, an art exhibition.  In 1982, she graduated from Kingston University in the UK with a bachelor’s degree in interior design, and in 2005 completed her Masters of Fine Arts from De Montfort University. She is an assistant professor of interior design at Dar Al Hekma College. For a few years starting in 1983, she worked as the first female designer at her brother’s furniture and design company.

Working on her MFA required her to interview and organize an exhibit for local female artists. Her exhibition for her MFA turned into a regular exhibition called Saudiaat, featuring contemporary female Saudi Arabian artists. As well as featuring artwork, Saudiaat also supports local female artists and educates the public about the techniques involved in their work. As of 2012, the group has had four exhibitions, with the 2012 exhibition, titled “Directions”, having been held in Jeddah.

Other artists

Important exhibitions


Nabatt: A Sense of Being (2010) is an exhibition of contemporary art from Saudi Arabia. It is presented by the Saudi Arabian Pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo. Amongst the artists exhibiting, it features works by Shadia & Raja Alem, Reem Al Faisal, Lulwah Al Homoud, Jowhara Al Saud, Noha Al-Sharif] & Maha Mullah. The show attempts at engaging with the diverse nature of life, notably human relationships and the interactions amongst and within social groups and communities.

Edge of Arabia

Edge of Arabia (2003) is a UK independent non-profit organisation, founded by an artist collective.

We Need to Talk: Jeddah

In January 2012, it organised a 40-piece exhibition entitled ‘We Need to Talk’. More than a third of the works displayed were by women.

Come Together: London

In October 2012, it presented ‘Come Together’ curated by Stephen Stapleton displaying large-scale, multi-media work by leading Arab artists. The name of the exhibition, Come Together was a reference to social networking channels and their influence on individual expression in the Arab World. The show featured the work of 30 emerging artists which included works by Saudi Arabia’s Sarah Al Abdali and Manal Al Dowayan. In addition to the exhibition Edge of Arabia teamed up with The Crossway Foundation, Dar Al Mamûn and Future Shorts to incorporate an education programme comprising workshops, film screenings, topical discussions, and guided exhibition tours.

Soft Power

Soft Power (September 26 – December 10, 2012) was the inaugural show at Alaan Artspace. Soft Power represents an innovative project, looking at the complex domain of a woman’s role and the position of women within contemporary Saudi society. It features three Saudi female artists: Sarah Abu Abdallah, Sarah Mohanna Al-Abdali and Manal Al Dowayan. The exhibition, rather than being explicitly political, explores the subtleties of the political and social contentions prevalent in Saudi Arabia. Throughout the exhibition, there are references made to the guardianship laws adopted in Saudi Arabia. The female subjects represented are givers, consumers, objects, power-brokers and caretakers. As stated by the exhibitions website, the artists embrace ‘a nuanced and at times humorous approach towards exploring the position of women within contemporary society.’ The name of the exhibition encapsulates this stance, and the subjects of the works themselves, which attempt at reshaping the expected narrative. Moreover, it offers a platform for discussion and dialogue on matters concerning art in Saudi Arabia.


Wadjda, is the first feature film to be made in Saudi Arabia it was directed by a woman. Haifaa Al Mansour, made her debut at the Venice film festival. Her feature film explores the restrictions placed on women in the conservative Islamic kingdom. It took her three years to have the permission and backing to make. It is a Saudi/German co-production, produced by the Berlin-based Razor Film Produktions with support from Rotana Studios. It is the first film entirely shot in Saudi Arabia, documenting the everyday trials and tribulations of a young Saudi Arabian girl, Wadja. It encapsulates her childhood journey opposing social norms and restrictions both at home and school. Al Mansour hoped the film would help to change attitudes towards women and film both within and outside Saudi Arabia. However, the film is yet to be seen in Saudi Arabia until its subsequent television release. Al Mansour claims to have faced a number of challenges casting and filming in a country steeped in conservative attitudes. She aimed to depict the segregation of women in Saudi Arabia. Namely, the fact that women have lower legal status than men, are subject to guardianship laws and are banned from driving.


Contemporary women artists

Basmah Felemban The Hand

Islamic calligraphy

From Free Islamic Calligraphy

Al Talaq
Al Talaq

Meriem Marsli

Edited and extended from Wikipedia

Islamic calligraphy, is the artistic practice of handwriting and calligraphy, based upon the alphabet in the lands sharing a common Islamic cultural heritage. It includes Arabic , Ottoman, and Persian calligraphy. It is known in Arabic as khatt Islami (خط اسلامي), derived from the word ‘line’, ‘design’, or ‘construction’.

The development of Islamic calligraphy is strongly tied to the Qur’an; chapters, and excerpts from the Qur’an is a common and almost universal text upon which Islamic calligraphy is based. Deep religious association with the Qur’an, as well as suspicion of figurative art as idolatrous has led calligraphy to become one of the major forms of artistic expression in Islamic cultures.

As Islamic calligraphy is highly venerated, most works follow examples set by well established calligraphers, with the exception of secular or contemporary works. In antiquity, a pupil would copy a master’s work repeatedly until their handwriting is similar.

The most common style is divided into:

1. Kufic: oldest angular style

2. Naskh (نسخ nasḫ): cursive style . With variants Thuluth (ثلث ṯuluṯ)  Ruq‘ah (رقعة ruqʿah)

With the spread of Islam, the Arabic script was established in a vast geographic area with many regions developing their own unique style. From the 14th century onward, other cursive styles began to developed in Turkey, Persia, and China.

3. Nasta‘liq (نستعلیق nastaʿlīq) developed in Persia

4. Diwani (ديواني dīwānī) developed in Ottoman Empire

5) Sini is a style developed in China. The shape is greatly influenced by Chinese calligraphy, using a horsehair brush instead of the standard reed pen. A famous modern calligrapher in this tradition is Hajji Noor Deen Mi Guangjiang.

Instruments and media

The traditional instrument of the Islamic calligrapher is the qalam, a pen normally made of dried reed or bamboo; the ink is often in color, and chosen such that its intensity can vary greatly, so that the greater strokes of the compositions can be very dynamic in their effect. Some styles are often written using a metallic-tip pen.


Islamic calligraphy is applied on a wide range of decorative mediums other than paper, such as tiles, vessels, carpets, and inscriptions. Before the advent of paper, papyrus and parchment were used for writing. The advent of paper revolutionized calligraphy. While monasteries in Europe treasured a few dozen volumes, libraries in the Muslim world regularly contained hundreds and even thousands of books.

Coins were another support for calligraphy. Beginning in 692, the Islamic caliphate reformed the coinage of the Near East by replacing visual depiction with words. This was especially true for dinars, or gold coins of high value. Generally the coins were inscribed with quotes from the Qur’an.

By the tenth century, the Persians, who had converted to Islam, began weaving inscriptions onto elaborately patterned silks. So precious were calligraphic inscribed textiles that Crusaders brought them to Europe as prized possessions. A notable example is the Suaire de Saint-Josse, used to wrap the bones of St. Josse in the Abbey of St. Josse-sur-Mer near Caen in northwestern France.

Kufic – Iraq

9th century Qur’an, an early kufic example from the Abbasid period

Bowl with Kufic Calligraphy, 10th century.Brooklyn Museum


Kufic is the oldest form of the Arabic script developed around the end of the 7th century in the areas of Kufa, Iraq, from which it takes its name. It was the main script used to copy Qur’ans from the 8th to 10th century and went out of general use in the 12th century when the flowing naskh style become more practical, although it continued to be used as a decorative element to contrast superseding styles.

The Archaic Kufi consisted of about 17 letters without diacritic dots or accents. Afterwards, dots and accents were added to help readers with pronunciation, and the set of Arabic letters rose to 29.

There were no set rules of using the Kufic script; the only common feature is the rigid, angular, linear strokes and shapes of the characters – a modified form of the old Nabataean script. Through use in different regions, countries and calligraphers, the style later developed into several varieties, including floral, foliated, plaited or interlaced, bordered, and squared kufi.Common varieties include square Kufic, a technique known as banna’i. Contemporary calligraphy using this style is also popular in modern decorations.

Decorative kufic inscriptions are often imitated into pseudo-kufics in Middle age and Renaissance Europe. Pseudo-kufics is especially common in Renaissance depictions of people from the Holy Land. The exact reason for the incorporation of pseudo-Kufic is unclear. It seems that Westerners mistakenly associated 13–14th century Middle-Eastern scripts as being identical with the scripts current at the time of Christ, and thus found natural to represent early Christians in association with them.


Muhaqqaq script in a 14th-century Qur’an from the Mamluk dynasty.

The use of cursive script coexisted with kufic, but because in the early stages of their development they lacked discipline and elegance, cursive were usually used for informal purposes. With the rise of Islam, new script was needed to fit the pace of conversions, and a well defined cursive called naskh first appeared in the 10th century. The script is the most ubiquitous among other styles, used in Qur’ans, official decrees, and private correspondence. It became the basis of modern Arabic print.

Standardization of the style was pioneered by Ibn Muqla (886-940 A.D.) and later expanded by Abu Hayan at-Tawhidi (died 1009 A.D.) andMuhammad Ibn Abd ar-Rahman (1492–1545 A.D.). Ibn Muqla is highly regarded in Muslim sources on calligraphy as the inventor of the naskh style, although this seems to be erroneous. However, Ibn Muqla did establish systematic rules and proportions for shaping the letters, which use ‘alif as the x-height.

Variation of the naskh includes:

  1. Thuluth is developed as a display script to decorate particular scriptural objects. Letters have long vertical lines with broad spacing. The name reference to the x-height, which is one third of the ‘alif.
  2. Riq’ah is a handwriting style derived from naskh and thuluth, first appeared in the 9th century. The shape is simple with short strokes and little flourishes.
  3. Muhaqqaq is a majestic style used by accomplished calligrapher. It was considered one of the most beautiful scripts, as well as one of the most difficult to execute. Muhaqqaq was commonly used during the Mameluke era, but the use become largely restricted to short phrases, such as the basmallah, from the 18th century onward.


A cursive style developed in the 14th century by Mir Ali Tabrizi to write the Persian language for literary and non-Qur’anic works. Nasta’liq is thought to be a later development of the naskh and the earlier ta’liq script used in Iran. The name ta’liq means ‘hanging’, and refers to the slightly steeped lines of which words run in, giving the script a hanging appearance. Letters have short vertical strokes with broad and sweeping horizontal strokes. The shapes are deep, hook-like, and have high contrast.

Nasta’liq calligraphy by Mir Emad Hassani, perhaps the most celebrated Persian calligrapher.

In the 17th century Morteza Gholi Khan Shamlou and Mohammad Shafi Heravi created a new genre called cursive Nastaʿlīq Shekasteh Nastaʿlīq. Almost a century later, Abdol-Majid Taleqani, who was a prominent artist at the time, brought this genre to its highest level. This calligraphic style is based on the same rules as Nas’taliq. However, cursive Nas’taliq has a few significant differences: it provides more flexible movements, and it is slightly more stretched and curved. Yadollah Kaboli is one of the most prominent contemporary calligraphers within this style.


is a cursive style of Arabic calligraphy developed during the reign of the early Ottoman Turks in the 16th and early 17th centuries. It was invented by Housam Roumi and reached its height of popularity under Süleyman I the Magnificent (1520–1566). Spaces between letters are often narrow, and lines ascend upwards from right to left. Larger variation called djali are filled with dense decorations of dots and diacritical marks in the space between, giving it a compact appearance. Diwani is difficult to read and write due to its heavy stylization, and became ideal script for writing court documents as it insured confidentiality and prevented forgery.

List of calligraphers

Some classical calligraphers:

Ottoman era

How to do it