The Industrious Acts of the Moslems of Northwest and Southwest Africa

The Industrious Acts of the Moslems of Northwest and Southwest Africa
by Professor Drew, the Egyptian Adept
Moorish Literature, pp. 21-22

These are the Moabites, Hamathites, Canaanites who were driven out of the land of Canaan by Joshua, and received permission of the Pharaohs of Egypt to settle in that portion of Egypt. In later years they formed themselves kingdoms. These kingdoms are called this day Morocco, Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli, etc..

They originated the beauties of the Alhambra and to an unpracticed eye the light relives and fanciful arabesques which cover the walls of the Alhambra appear to have been sculptured by the hand. With a minute and patient labor, and inexhaustible variety of detail, yet a general uniformity and harmony of design truely astonishing. And this may especially be said of the vaults, and cupolas which are wrought like honeycombs or frost work, with stalactites, and pendants which confound the beholder with the seeming intricacy of their patterns. The astonishment ceases, however, when it is discovered that this is all stucco work, plates of plaster of paris cast in moulds and skillfully joined so as to form patterns of every size and form. This mode of disappearing walls with arabesques and stuccoing the vaults with grotto work was invented in Damascus but highly improved by the Moors in Morocco to whom Saracenic architecture owes its most graceful and fanciful details. The process by which all this fairy tracery was produced was ingeniously simple. the walls in their naked state were divided off by lines crossing at right angles, such as artists use in copying a picture. Over these were drawn a succession of interesting regiment of circles. By the aid of these the artists could work with celerity and certainty and from the mere intersection of their plain and curved lines arose the interminable variety of patterns, and the general uniformity of their character. Much gilding was used in the stucco work, especially of the cupolas, and the interstices were delicately penciled with brilliant colors, such as vermilion and lapiz lazuli laid on with the whites of eggs.

The primitive colors alone were used, says Ford, by the Egyptians, Greeks, and Arabs, in the early period of art, and they prevail in the Alhambra wherever the artist has been Arabic or Moorish. It is remarkable how much of their original brilliancy remains after the lapse of several centuries. The lower part of the walls in the saloons to the height of several feet is encrusted with glazed tiles, joined like the plates of stucco work so as to form various patterns. On some of these are emblazoned the escutcheons of the Moslem Kings traversed with a band and motto. These glazed tiles- Azzulijas in Spanish, Azzulija in Arabic are of Oriental origin.

Their coolness, cleanliness and freedom from vermin render them admirably fitted in sultry climates for paving halls, and fountains. Encrusting bathing rooms and lining the walls of chambers. Ford is inclined to give them great antiquity. From their prevailing colors, sapphire and blue, he deduces that they may have formed the kind of pavements alluded to in the Sacred Scriptures. “There was under his feet as it were a paved work of sapphire stone,” Exodus XXXIV, 10 and again “Behold I will lay thy stones with the fairy colors and lay their foundations with sapphires.” -Isaiah IV, 2.

These glazed or porcelain tiles were introduced into Spain at an early date by the Moslems. Some are to be seen among the Moorish ruins have been there upwards of eight centuries. Manufactures of them still exist in the Penninsula and they are much used in the southern provinces for paving and lining the summer apartment. The Spaniards introduced them into the Netherlands when they had possession of that country. The people of Holland adopted them with avidity as wonderfully suited to their passion for household cleanliness. And thus these Oriental inventions, the Azzulijas of the Spaniards, the Azzulija of the Arabs, have come to the commonly known as Dutch tiles.