The Doors in the Arab World
By: Yaseen Rashed/ Arab America Contributor
One of the first words I was taught when trying to speak Arabic was Baab, or door in English. Doors carry a huge significance in Arab culture as they are made to symbolize new beginnings and an expression of the regions artistic traditions. Doors can be found on houses, to neighborhoods, to even a city door built back under the Ottoman Empire. All of this focus resulted in beautifully designed and handcrafted doors in all colors, shapes, and sizes to signify the importance it has in everyday culture.
One of the most elaborate designs is the Andalousie door. Found in many parts in North Africa, this door design was birthed out of the Arab renaissance that existed in modern-day Spain. Its iconic wooden panels and large black bolts have been a staple of the region for centuries. Its curved top is also an iconic piece of culture paired with carvings of verses from the Quran. This is believed to bless the door, therefore only bringing in glad tidings.
This is yet another iconic design and staple of culture. A little more modern, this door made out of metal consists of floral-like shapes within them, however, sometimes they’re designed with other symbols such as a fish or a sunrise. These are doors are also usually brightly painted to have them stand out in front of the city. In this case, the door is from Tripoli, Libya and the blue signifies the sea from which so much of the social sphere revolves around. Different communities might have different colors to represent their unique traditions. This was later also adopted by southern Italy and spread to other areas in the Mediterranean.
This design comes from the more Saharan region. Countries like Mali and Mauritania, and even parts of Algeria and Libya, have doors built out of slabs of wood with a clay fence protecting the entrance. These are more for protected neighborhoods, or Haras, where a door would be the entrance to the communal space. On the outside, there are designs of tribal symbols as well as elements of local architecture that contribute to the aesthetic. It’s also painted in red mainly due to the availability of the dye as its made from sheep wool.
Egypt is notorious for its large apartment buildings, especially in its cosmopolitan areas. Given the tight space, Egyptians have taken to long skinny wooden doors usually thick enough to block noise from the rest of the apartments. The two doors are usually perfectly symmetrical, with carvings and designs from top to bottom. On the very top, however, the design usually curves and fans out.
Doors from the Levant region have a very unique style to them. The Levant includes states like Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, and Jordan. These doors are similar to the Egyptian style as they are skinny and long. However, instead of being all one color, there’s often pops of color in contrast with the wood. Above the door, there’s a semicircle, usually guarded with metalwork that symbolizes a sunrise. There’s also usually a striped pattern that’s above the semicircle to give it a color pop and a beautiful aesthetic.
Arabian Peninsula Design
In the Arabian peninsula, the doors are known for being quite large and grand. This is because the area consists of a lot of wide-spaced farmland. These doors are similar to the Saharan style, as both have similar dry, desert-like conditions. The wood on the door blends in well with all the dust and sandstorms while the red and yellow provide a nice contrast. One considerable difference, however, is that these doors span wider and are built on almost a fort-like structure to ensure the family their privacy.
Omani doors possess some of the most intricate metal works in the world. The doors consist of two large bronze faces and are detailed by a lighter color metal that looks like gold. The darker bronze won’t show prominent evidence of rust as the color is already dark. This is especially handy as the majority of the Omani population lives on the coastline, which is notorious for its fishing culture.
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