Diwan Al-Mimar: The Becoming of Islamic Jerusalem (7th – 14th century)
Dr. Nasser Rabbat

Tuesday 26 March 2024 | 8:30 PM | Main Building 

Jerusalem is the only city in the world that is sacred to all three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. However, being chronologically the last of these religions, Islam faced the inspiring yet challenging task of absorbing the various aspects of holiness imparted to the city by its two older siblings, thereby creating a sanctity all its own.

This talk traces the evolution of Islamic sanctity in Jerusalem from the 7th to the 14th century, which resulted in a new sacred topography and the urban reorientation of the sacred city. This process reached its pinnacle two centuries after the city's recapture from the Crusaders, when various Ayyubid and Mamluk amirs endowed religious structures around the Haram and in the city proper. At this point, Jerusalem truly became an Islamic city, teeming with the religious, spiritual, and educational institutions that distinguished all great medieval Islamic cities and gave them their unique urban and cultural identity.

The talk is in English.

Nasser Rabbat is the Aga Khan Professor and Director of the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT. His interests span Islamic architecture, urban history, heritage studies, Arab history, contemporary Islamic art, and post-colonial criticism. Professor Rabbat has authored numerous articles and several books on a wide range of topics, including Mamluk architecture, ancient Syria, 19th-century Cairo, Orientalism, and urbicide. His most recent publications include "Taqiy al-Din al-Maqrizi: Wijdan al-Tarikh al-Masri" (2024); "Writing Egypt: Al-Maqrizi and His Historical Project" (2023); "Nasser Rabbat: Critical Encounters" (2023); and "‘Imarat al-Mudun al-Mayyita" (The Architecture of the Dead Cities) (2018). He is currently editing a book on the cultural history of Syria, tentatively titled "Syria: The Land Where Cultures Met," and writing a history of Mamluk Cairo.

Dr. Rabbat has worked as an architect in Los Angeles and Damascus and has taught at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales in Paris, and NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) in the UAE. He has held several research appointments in cities around the world, including Cambridge, MA; Princeton; Los Angeles; Cairo; Granada; Rome; Paris; Doha; Bonn; and Florence. He regularly contributes to several Arabic newspapers and consults with international design firms on projects in the Islamic world. Professor Rabbat also served as a member of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture Steering Committees in 2019 and 2022.

 Image credit: a drawing by S M Kaikobad.