|Al-Azhar Park, Cairo|
The prophet Muhammad founded Islam in the sands of what is now Saudi Arabia in the 7th century AD. And in the Qu’ran the faithful are promised that ‘the Garden of Paradise shall be their hospitality, therein to dwell forever’. This garden of Paradise is described at length, and with ‘spreading shade’, ‘fruit and fountains and pomegranates’, and ‘cool pavilions’.
A Heavenly Paradise
Add to this heady mix, flowers for colour and fragrance, and moving water cool the air, and make a relaxing sound, and to people who inhabited a desiccated and dusty desert land, this truly must have seemed paradise.
|The Generalife, Granada|
In Persia, the Muslim conquerors found an established garden making culture, with a garden style that had its origins in the palace garden of Cyrus the Great at Pasargardae. Made in the 6th century BC, this featured a quadripartite form, that is to say a square divided into to four equal quarters by two water courses running perpendicular to one another.
|Plan of the Taj Mahal with its chahar bagh garden|
|Court of Lions, Alhambra|
New Garden Forms
As the religion of Islam spread, so did their garden making. And in all countries that were conquered, the conquering artisans assimilated local traditions. So today, we have variations on the theme from North Africa to Moorish Spain, from Afghanistan to India - the gardens of the great Mughal Empire, and modern Islamic gardens all over the world, including the Gulf States and Indonesia.
|Nishat Bagh, Kashmir|
If you want to see an Islamic garden then Spain has the Alhambra in Granada, and the Alaczars in Seville and Cordoba. There are gardens in Morocco, and, of course the Taj Mahal in India. A lovely new example is the Al-Azhar Park in Cairo. See also my earlier post on Persian Gardens.