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Palaces are the least common type of architectural survival among the major categories of Islamic architecture. Palaces were not often built to last, and the few exceptional buildings that have survived are either very recent or were abandoned long ago and have been excavated. Yet the desert palaces of Mshatta, in Jordan, and Ukhaidir, in Iraq, have not only survived, but also provide valuable information about the history of early Islamic architecture. The two structures, which were built under different dynasties, were probably constructed within a short time of each other and have a number of important similarities. But the Mshatta palace shows the end of one early era in Islamic architecture and the Ukhaidir palace shows the emergence of the next phase. Taken together they demonstrate the cultural shift from early western architectural influence to the primarily eastern influence that was to be responsible for the principal trends in Islamic architecture for many centuries.

Although secular architecture concerned with trade and some private residences survive in archaeological sites throughout the Near East, the "absolute rarity of Islamic palaces [is] a great pity in view of their importance as the acme of secular architecture" (Hillenbrand Islamic 377). The principal reason for the scarcity of such buildings is that they "were designed more for display than for durability" (Blair and Bloom 141). Ideas about architecture, like every aspect of Islamic material culture, derived from the ideas of the Prophet Muhammad and, as Grabar notes, when Muhammad migrated to Medina he built a house that consisted of a 52-yard square with 12-foot walls, a portico of palm trunks, palm leaves, and mud, and a few smaller huts for his wives--all opening into the central courtyard. This was the house of the most important citizen of Medina and the leader of the emerging Muslim faith and he had no desire for anything grander. The house a...

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Palaces. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 19:52, August 12, 2020, from