Women’s Pavilion at Expo 2020 maps female contributions to Islamic architecture

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Dubai, – In the past few decades, historians of Islamic architecture have recognised the vital role that women have played in the development of these arts – and this was celebrated at the Women’s Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai as part of Urban & Rural Development Week, which concluded today (6 November).
 
During panel discussion organised by the Women’s Pavilion, panellists highlighted the most prominent women who played a vital role in Islamic history, focusing on their roles in Islamic architecture, during a series of lectures.
 
Religious architecture plays a vital role in the lives of Muslims – spaces used to perform religious rituals, learn and provide services to the community.
 
Women have played essential roles in the construction of many remarkable buildings that enriched the urban landscape of their cities in the Islamic world, including mosques, madrasas, cemeteries, hospitals and baths. The names of many influential buildings are also associated with the women who conceived them.
 
Olivia Duncan, Associate Professor of the Anthropology Programme at New York University Abu Dhabi, said: “I heard about Fatima Al-Fihri, this Arab Muslim woman who was born in Tunisia and moved to Fez in Morocco. The woman who established the world’s first university – University of Al-Qarawiyyin … It is interesting to me that the role of Muslim women was much more complex compared with their counterparts European at the time.”
 
Dr Ahlam Zainal, Chief Development Officer at Gulf Finance House – Bahrain, said: “I read about women’s contributions to Islamic architecture, and there are many stories about Muslim women that caught my eye, including what Nafisa Al-Bayda did, who spent her fortune to contribute to the development of Sabil Kuttab of Nafisa Al Bayda building in Cairo, Egypt.”
 
In addition to these achievements, Al-Firdaws School is the most important legacy left by Queen Daifeh Khatun in the city of Aleppo. The Seljuk Queen Safwat Al-Malik also ordered the construction of a spectacular burial funerary dome, along with several buildings that left their mark on Islamic architecture and formed the identity of some Islamic cities.
 
According to the speakers, the remarkable contributions of women from Arab and Islamic regions, which have driven architectural and urban development throughout history, are inspiring today’s women to create inclusive and sustainable cities.
 
Dr Alamira Reem Al Hashimi, Emirati architect, urban planner, author and researcher, said: “Historically, the houses and public spaces were divided into sections for women and men; the main public areas in the city belonged to men, where houses were considered sacred places for women. However, she was encouraged and decided to leave its cocoon, and enter public life for the benefit of everyone … Interestingly, women are dominant in their homes, and this contradictory attitude toward public and private life is interesting.”
 
At the conclusion of the session, the speakers pointed out the importance of women playing a role in future architecture, taking into the account the needs of children, people of determination and other groups, and creating safe, secure environments for them.
 
Urban & Rural Development Week is the third of the 10 Theme Weeks as part of the Programme for People and Planet that are taking place throughout Expo 2020 Dubai.

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