This 96 page “picture book” written on an AR 8.4 is not for everyone, but for those interested in architecture or structural engineering, or 16th Century Ottoman culture, or even Turkey in general, this book is fascinating, beautiful and most of all informative. It first caught my attention when I was planning a story time to remind children of how they ought to behave in a mosque, needless to say it didn’t fit the occasion, but this fictionalized account of how a typical Ottoman mosque would have been built and why was perfect for my 7th grade daughter who loves legos and design and has been to Turkey.
The story starts with a wealthy Turk realizing his own mortality and wanting to follow his Islamic faith in giving back his wealth and providing for his community before he passes. Thus he commissions the building of a mosque, madrese (religious school and library), an imaret (a soup kitchen for preparation and serving of food), hamam (public bath) and a cesme (a public fresh drinking water fountain).
From there the book details how the foundation to the minarets are designed, crafted, erected and used. Explaining how domes are supported to how stones are laid and stained glass windows constructed, so many details are illuminated and kept simple at the same time.
Aside from the physical construction of the buildings, it really is incredibly remarkable and gives insights into how Islam shaped cultures, and similarly how Mosques became integral parts of societies.
WHY I LIKE IT:
The book is fact and historically based with a fictionalized story layered on top to move the information along. The pictures are detailed and informative with labels and descriptions that make the technical jargon of the text visually understood.
If one has ever been to the Blue Mosque, even in its fiction, the book will explain the function and thought process behind the gardens and porticos and women’s spaces in a very satisfying manner.
I love that it mentions how even Jews and Christians contributed to building of such Mosques and how the all facets of the community took pride in the completed works. I’m not sure why the author specified the blood of a ram being spread out, as it isn’t Islamic culture, but with my limited knowledge of 16th century Ottoman practices, I didn’t dwell on it too much.
TOOLS FOR LEADING THE DISCUSSION:
I feel like this book would be great in any middle school STEM class to just have to look at and thumb through, Muslim or not. The author has written numerous books about different structures (Cathedral, Castle, City) and breaks down how they were constructed and why. A great resource for anyone willing to ponder and marvel at the structures around them and take their understanding to the next level.
There is a Glossary at the end, and I really enjoyed the last paragraph of the Preface at the beginning: