Gardens of the Middle East

The most ancient gardens of civilisation emerged in this fertile region, influencing the forms, techniques and type of plants that were later used in Greek, Roman and Islamic gardens. The region’s climate required careful water management, resulting in decorative fountains that use water sparingly. The need for privacy, safety and protection from the sun led to secluded and strongly architectural garden designs.


Gardens of North Africa and Spain

As a result of Muslim rule in the Middle Ages, the Spanish cities of Granada, Cordoba and Seville each possess lush gardens with decorative tiles, stucco and fountains. Along the North African coast, the drier climate led to oasis-based agriculture, and groves of palms and citrus fruits. Walls and screens of trees enclosed these gardens to protect water, plants and people from the sun and desert winds.

Gardens of Persia and Central Asia

Great builders created grand Islamic gardens in Isfahan, Nishapur, Qom and Shiraz in what is now Iran and Bukhara in Uzbekistan. These gardens often featured ornamental tiles and muqarnas (small, pointed arches). Timber pavilions, often with scenic views, are commonly found in this region.

Gardens of South Asia

From the 16th to the 18th centuries, a rich Islamic culture flourished both in India and in the region of contemporary Pakistan and Bangladesh. Gardens in this Mughal Empire ranged from terraced spaces with pavilions at Shalamar in Lahore, Pakistan to palace and tomb gardens in Agra and Delhi, India. The architectural features often incorporated decorative inlay and carving, and long channels of water incorporating chadars (carved, sloped waterfalls).

Gardens of Turkey and Eastern Europe

By the mid 16th century, the Islamic Ottoman Empire extended from North Africa to the Persian Gulf and to parts of Eastern Europe. Adopting local materials and forms, the Ottomans built numerous mosques, palaces and gardens. In addition to using stone and extremely refined metal work, they developed specific forms of tile making and glazing.

Gardens of East and West Africa

Trade brought Islam to these regions early in the eighth century. Yet the area of contemporary Mali and Niger had few gardens because water was needed for people and livestock. This region’s most prominent legacy in terms of Islamic gardens can be seen in the rammed earth and mud structures of Timbuktu in Mali.

Gardens of South East Asia

From the 12th century, Islamic rulers on the Malay Peninsula (covering parts of Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore) created taman (pleasure gardens) next to royal palaces. Alongside fountains, flowers and trees, many of these gardens adapted existing local design features, such as artificial hills and pavilions in water to symbolise mountains and the sea.