The Arabic alphabet has 28 basic letters. Adaptations of the Arabic script for other languages, such as PersianOttomanSindhiUrduMalay or PashtoArabi Malayalam, have additional letters, shown below. There are no distinct upper and lower case letter forms.

Many letters look similar but are distinguished from one another by dots (’i‘jām) above or below their central part, called rasm. These dots are an integral part of a letter, since they distinguish between letters that represent different sounds. For example, the Arabic letters transliterated as b and t have the same basic shape, but b has one dot below, ب, and t has two dots above, ت.

Both printed and written Arabic are cursive, with most of the letters within a word directly connected to the adjacent letters.

[edit]Alphabetical order

There are two main collating sequences for the Arabic alphabet:

  • The original ’abjadī order (أبجدي), used for lettering, derives from the order of the Phoenician alphabet, and is therefore similar to the order of other Phoenician-derived alphabets, such as the Hebrew alphabet. In this order letters are also used as numbers.
  • The hijā’ī (هجائي) or ’alifbā’ī (ألفبائي) order shown in the table below, used where lists of names and words are sorted, as in phonebooks, classroom lists, and dictionaries, groups letters by similarity of shape.

The ’abjadī order is not a simple historical continuation of the earlier north Semitic alphabetic order, since it has a position corresponding to the Aramaic letter sameḵ/semkat ס, yet no letter of the Arabic alphabet historically derives from that letter. Loss of sameḵ was compensated for by the split of shin שinto two independent Arabic letters, ش (shīn) and ﺱ (sīn) which moved up to take the place of sameḵ.

The most common ’abjadī sequence is:

غ ظ ض ذ خ ث ت ش ر ق ص ف ع س ن م ل ك ي ط ح ز و ه د ج ب أ
gh dh kh th t sh r q f s n m l k y z w h d j b

Note: In this sequence, and all those that follow, the letters are presented in Arabic writing order, i.e., right to left. The Latin script transliterations are also in this order, with each placed under its corresponding letter. Thus, the first letter of the sequence is “أ”(’) at the right, and the last letter in the sequence is “غ”(gh), at the left.

This is commonly vocalized as follows:

’abjad hawwaz ḥuṭṭī kalaman sa‘faṣ qarashat thakhadh ḍaẓagh.

Islamic Calligraphy

Islamic calligraphy is text presented in an artistic form. Arabic text is still very strikingly beautiful but there is more to just writing it. Calligraphy being the artistic practice there are many fantastic visual representations varying from animals, symbols of love and symbols to Allah. Calligraphy is used to represent God because they are not aloud to show images of God. Calligraphy was instilled into islamic writing to preserve the Qur’an, form suspicion of rebellious preaching of other faiths, to keep Islamic faith to its own, thus making it one of the most expressive forms of art in the Islamic world.

There are two styles of calligraphy, Geometric and Cursive. Geometric referred to as “kufic” are presented in very clean and understandable layout. with a stress on horizontal layout, whilst cursive “naskh” was very much more free form and easy to write.

We have been interested in the beautiful typography of the Arabic text, we feel we should represent text in both English and Arabic within our kiosk but whilst not loosing the same type styles.

These 3 texts are the Arabic for education, community development and science and research. The 3 pillars to the Qatar Foundation.

Some sketched out ideas for text combining English and Islamic styles.

this intricate wall piece is typical of calligraphy in the Arabic world. this shows the more cursive (naskh) style, as do the the images that follow.

Here is the text represented in animal form.

Here is a calligraphy that is in the geometric style.



wikipedia –

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I keep seeing this, or very similar geometric patterns in Islamic Design, so being a lover of geometry, I just had to construct it in AutoCAD! I love the subtle curves the overall pattern creates when you extend and repeat it. It would make a lovely lace or sashiko pattern.

Does it have any particular significance, or is it just beautiful?

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These designs appealed because of their geometric patterning and translucent nature.

5 – DIMENSION PAVILLION. Olafur Eliasson in collaboration with Icelandic artist Einar Thorsteinn designed this pavillion based on five-fold symmetry (a symmetry which incorporates the Golden Ratio). It is made from stainless steel and can be easily transported. The transparency visually extends the enclosed space.

ORIBE TEA HOUSE. Designed by Kenga Kuma this minimalist Japanese Tea House is constructed from 5mm thick corrugated polycarbonate ribs at 65mm spacing, attached to each other with removable bonding bands. The structure can therefore be dismantled and easily moved. From one angle the structure looks like a translucent solid from the other a transparent screen.

VOROMURO designed by Office dA is constructed from sheets of petg ( glycolised polyethylene terephthalate ) bent and rivetted together.

TECHNICOLOUR BLOOM designed by Elbo Group,  is intricately cut from plywood. The outside surfaces are white, whilst the inner are painted magenta, yellow and blue, which gives subtle refractions of colour onto the exterior.

VOUSSOIR  CLOUD, designed by IwamotoScott Architecture in conjunction with engineers Buro Happold. It is a compressive structure made from ultra light materials, the smaller elements have more strength so these are grouped at the column bases and along the ribs of the arches, whilst the domes are made of larger elements and have a much more open feeling. The material used is thin, almost translucent, wood laminate folded along curved lines to create triangular dished cells.

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These designs struck us because of they are modern, vibrant and very expressive. With their bold colours and striking geometries they could each represent a modern take on Traditional Islamic Art and Design.

DIGITAL ORIGAMI was made from only 2 differently shaped recycled cardboard modules by 25 UTS Master Class Students with Chris Bosse. The vibrant changing coloured lighting effects were by ERCO. Organic and geometric, it almost has a crystalline appearance, and reminds me of Maqarnas domes. Part of the beauty come from its organic composite nature.

MAXIMILIAN’S SCHELL was designed by Ball Nogues, inspired by the character played by Maximilian Schell in the film ‘The Black Hole’. The material used is tinted Mylar, internally reinforced with Nylon and Kevlar fibres. Both transparent and reflective, the golden metallic finish offers good UV-resistance. Each unique CNC cut ‘petal’ connects with its neighbours with 3 clear polycarbonate rivets. Externally the surface is smooth, but through the effects of gravity the petals curve downwards on the internal surface. We particularly like the way the coloured light casts geometric patterns on the floor beneath and how separate entities work together to make up the whole.

LIQUID SKY also designed by Ball Nogues, is more tent-like in structure. It again uses multi-coloured Mylar petals that cast coloured shadows.

HOLIDAY HOME by  UNStudio struck us because of its vibrant colour and strong geometry.


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We have now put some initial design concepts under the ‘concept development’ tab, please feel free to leave comments as we would welcome your feedback – good or bad.

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Being Scottish makes me feel really proud. I love my Country and all the traditions that are kept from the past. When i wear my traditional dress, i especially gain a feeling of Scottish pride. I think it is within our culture to be proud from where we come from and we are not scared to show it. i think we as Scots are very friendly to the world and we like to mix with other cultures, something we have been doing for Centuries, regardless of the situation being forced upon us or weather it is self explored, we very much have a make do and mend mentality in times of struggle.

this may be of help.

caution! this clip does contain some strong language and sexual references. the point of this video is to show a good sense of our comedy whilst also showing the complexity of our language. apologies if it offends anyone. (we were all rolling about the floor laughing)

A brief historical outline on Scotland

The website below goes onto explain a whole range of things about Scotland, from Scottish icons, to arts and culture, whilst giving information on all the regions around Scotland.

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The Middle East is considered by many to be the cradle of civilisation, from Greece and Egypt in the west, through the fertile crescent of Mesopotamia and Levant to the Indus Valley and on to China in the East. The tradition of learning and culture as endured in these areas for millennia. The scientists and philosophers of the Islamic, like the Classical world, were deeply involved with the study of maths, geometry and science. Indeed it is the Arabic world that developed the numbering system we all use today.

Throughout their history, Islamic Artists have developed simple geometry into a complex layering of patterns with subtle use of colours, tones and positive/negative space to create sophisticated optical effects. This Art form shows a preoccupation with repetition, rotation, symmetry, and infinite extendable patterns. These patterns are often framed but repeated at different scales throughout buildings, visually consolidating the whole. This approach shows perhaps an appreciation of the fractal organisation of the natural world.

Friday Mosque, Herat, Afghanistan showing a variety of geometric patterned panels

These patterns were used to completely cover many surfaces either in brightly coloured ceramic tiles or in relief patterns formed from brick or carved in stucco. Both approaches come to life in the strong sunlight of the region.

Geometic pattern cut in relief.

Vivid tiled geometric patterns based on 8 pointed star. 

Traditionally made of small pieces of turned wood, assembled into these intricate geometric patterns, pierced screens are also a characteristic element of Islamic Architecture. They developed from a need to provide privacy (particularly for the separate women’s quarters) yet still maintain cooling through drafts in the hot climate. Sometimes they also include niches to contain aromatic plants and earthenware vessels of water that are cooled through the process of evaporation.  Internally they cast amazing patterns of light and shadows.

Mamluk windows in Cairo, Egypt.

Screen at the mausoleum of Shah Rukn-i ‘Alam in Multan, Pakistan.

Pierced Screens, Fatephur, India

The circle is the generative shape of most Geometric Islamic Patterns, being subdivided into triangles, squares, polygons (pentagons, hexagons and octagons) and star-like shapes (6 to 16 pointed). Calligraphy and Foliate patterns are also used extensively and to a lesser extent Figures and Animals. In some ways you can see parallels between Islamic Art and traditional Celtic Art which also has complex geometry underlying its construction but is based on interlacing linear forms either as flowing knotwork, spiral and zoomorphic patterns, or angular key patterns.

Geometric pattern based on circle, forms pierced screen.

Foliate,Geometric and Calligraphic patterns. 

The Shah Mosque at Isfahan, Iran tiled geometric patterns cover every surface.


Islamic architecture shows expert use of 3-dimensionally geometry and structural principles, particularly in domed structures. The structural transitions from square plan to circular dome were sensitively and beautifully solved. One method was to use corner squinches to transform the square to an octagon and then a circle. Another method used tiers of arches to bridge the corners, giving a complex articulated internal surface. This later developed into the stalactite or muqarnas domes. Another element is the piercing of domes to create spectacular lighting effects from above, which were sometimes enhanced by covering the facetted surfaces with glazed tiles or mirrors to reflect the light.

The Great Mosque at Damascus, Syria uses arched squinches. 

Dome of the tomb of  Sitt Zubaida, Baghdad, Iraq, octagonal base transformed into a sixteen pointed star through a sucession of muqarnes. Above the transition zone the oculi are pierced to allow daylight into the interior.  for Islamic Geometric Design for Muqarnas Dome Design

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In the hot arid climate of the Middle East, where the desert oasis and the coast are essential to life, it is not surprising that cooling water and shade are essential elements of garden design. Whilst the outside walls of the traditional Islamic house have a solid and closed appearance, internally the plan is usually based around a shaded courtyard. Water is probably the most important element of Islamic Garden Design and is associated with wealth and fertility.

The verdant, shady inner courtyard of a Mamluk Townhouse, Cairo. 

Garden in Morrocco 

Gardens, flowing water, pools and fountains are likewise important elements in the Qur’anic descriptions of paradise. Mohammad in describing his journey to heaven describes 4 rivers, flowing with wine, milk, honey and water. This is transcribed into Garden design as the chahar-bagh or the four-fold garden, which typically has a central fountain or pool from which flow 4 rivers representing the 4 main elements of life. Islamic gardens are a place for spiritual contemplation and physical relaxation. The person who creates such a garden is showing their desire to attain the highest spiritual enlightenment.

Garden in Granada

In opulent buildings the water may continue to run through the rooms themselves, either as simple channels emphasizing axes or fountains, larger pools and cascades that would create not only a cool indoor microclimate but also add soothing sounds and ever changing patterns in reflections of light

Court of the Lions, Granada

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Happy Burns day!!

Its the 25th of January and it’s “Rabbie” Burns day in Scotland

for everyone in Qatar here is a wee scots poem from the great man himself, enjoy

To A Mouse.
On turning her up in her nest with the plough, November 1785.

Robert Burns was a poet, but that was not what earned him his living. As with most artists of his time he had to have some means of earning his keep. In Burns’ case he earned most of his money, sparse though this was, from farming. This is why he is also known as the “Ploughman Bard”. It was while he was ploughing one of his fields that he disturbed a mouse’s nest. It was his thoughts on what he had done that led to his poem, “To A Mouse”, which contains one of his most often quoted lines from the poem. I am sure that you will recognize it, probably not from the Scottish words, but from the translation, lines 4 and 5 from verse 7.

Burns Original

Wee, sleekit, cowrin, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty
Wi bickering brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee,
Wi’ murdering pattle.

I’m truly sorry man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth born companion
An’ fellow mortal!

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen icker in a thrave
‘S a sma’ request;
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss’t.

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s win’s ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.

That wee bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble,
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turned out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld.

But Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Still thou are blest, compared wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward, tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!

and in English

Small, sleek, cowering, timorous beast,
O, what a panic is in your breast!
You need not start away so hasty
With hurrying scamper!
I would be loath to run and chase you,
With murdering plough-staff.

I’m truly sorry man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
And justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth born companion
And fellow mortal!

I doubt not, sometimes, but you may steal;
What then? Poor beast, you must live!
An odd ear in twenty-four sheaves
Is a small request;
I will get a blessing with what is left,
And never miss it.

Your small house, too, in ruin!
It’s feeble walls the winds are scattering!
And nothing now, to build a new one,
Of coarse grass green!
And bleak December’s winds coming,
Both bitter and keen!

You saw the fields laid bare and wasted,
And weary winter coming fast,
And cozy here, beneath the blast,
You thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel plough past
Out through your cell.

That small bit heap of leaves and stubble,
Has cost you many a weary nibble!
Now you are turned out, for all your trouble,
Without house or holding,
To endure the winter’s sleety dribble,
And hoar-frost cold.

But Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leaves us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

Still you are blest, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!

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Qatar has undergone such dramatic changes within less than the span of one lifetime, it begs the question from where do we gain our sense of cultural identity? Is it static; ‘the past and social tradition’ or dynamic; ‘a vision of future aspirations and goals’ or some mixture of the two? Does that very perception change with age, sex, background or social position?

Can we, as members of a very different culture, even begin to answer those questions of Qatar?

We therefore need to ask you, how do the people of Qatar view their own culture? What is most important to you? What do you feel about the changes Qatar is going through? What changes do you want to see in the future?

In the hope that you might be able to answer these questions for us, we have prepared a short questionnaire. You can find this under the tab ‘Cultural Identity Probe’ or if you prefer here is the word document:


Could you fill this in yourselves, but also ask a mix of friends and family to do likewise so we can get an overall view of what you, the people of Qatar, think. You could either post your responses on your blog, or if you would prefer more anonymity email them to us at


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