digplanet beta 1: Athena
Share digplanet:


Applied sciences






















Mashrabiya or Shanasheel (Arabic: مشربية or شناشيل‎) is the Arabic term given to a type of projecting oriel window enclosed with carved wood latticework located on the second storey of a building or higher, often lined with stained glass. The mashrabiya (sometimes shanshool or rushan) is an element of traditional Arabic architecture used since the Middle Ages up to the mid-20th century. It is mostly used on the street side of the building; however, it may also be used internally on the sahn (courtyard) side.

Mashrabiyas were mostly used in houses and palaces although sometimes in public buildings such as hospitals, inns, schools and government buildings. They are found mostly in the Mashriq – i.e. the eastern part of the Arab world, but some types of similar windows are also found in the Maghreb (the western part of the Arab world). They are very prevalent in Iraq, the Levant, Hejaz and Egypt. They are mostly found in urban settings and rarely in rural areas. Basra is often called "the city of Shanasheel".

Etymology and history[edit]

Restored mashrabiya from the Aljafería palast (10th century), in Spain.

Mashrabiya is derived from the triliteral root Š-R-B, which generally denotes drinking or absorbing. There are two theories for its name, the most common one is that the name was originally for a small wooden shelf where the drinking water pots were stored. The shelf was enclosed by wood and located at the window in order to keep the water cool. Later on, this shelf evolved until it became part of the room with a full enclosure and retained the name despite the radical change in use.

The second theory is that the name was originally mashrafiya, derived from the verb Ashrafa, to overlook or to observe. During the centuries the name slowly changed due to changing accents and influence of non-Arabs speaking Arabic.

There is no point in history that can be dated as the first time they appeared; however, the earliest evidence on use of the Mashrabiya as it currently is dates back to the 12th century in Baghdad during the Abbasid period. Whatever is left in Arabic cities is mostly built during the late 19th century and early-to-mid-20th century although some Mashrabiyas can be found that are three or four hundred years old. Unfortunately, very few are restored.

In Iraq in the 1920s and 1930s, the designs of the latticework was affected by the Art Deco and Art Nouveau movements of the time. This was evident in Al Rasheed street Mashrabiyas up to the late 1960s before most of them were demolished.


Egyptian style Mashrabiya, projecting alone from part of the room and not reaching to the room floor, hence allowing for a Dakkah or sitting area in front of the window.

Traditionally, houses are built of adobe, brick or stone or a combination of that. Wooden houses are not popular and hardly ever found. Building heights in urban setting range from two to five floors (although Yemeni houses can reach up to seven floors) with the Mashrabiyas on the second level and above. The roofs are usually built using wooden or steel beams with the areas between filled with brick in a semi vault style[dubious ]. These beams were extended over the street, enlarging the footprint of the upper floor. The upper floor is then enclosed with latticework and roofed with wood. The projection is cantilevered and does not bear the weight of traditional building materials.

There are different types of Mashrabiyas, and the latticework designs differ from region to region. Most Mashrabiyas are closed where the latticework is lined with stained glass and part of the Mashrabiya is designed to be opened like a window, often sliding windows to save space; in this case the area contained is part of the upper floor rooms hence enlarging the floor plan. Some Mashrabiyas are open and not lined with glass, in this case the Mashrabiya works like a balcony and the space enclosed is independent of the upper floor rooms and accessed through those rooms with windows[dubious ] opening towards it, sometimes even the woodwork is reduced making look much more similar to a regular roofed balcony; this type of Mashrabiya is mostly used if the house is facing an open landscape rather than other houses, such as a river, a cliff below or simply a farm.



One of the major purposes of the Mashrabiya is privacy, an essential aspect of Arabic culture. A good view of the street can be obtained by the occupants without being seen, preserving the private interior without depriving the occupants from a vista of the public outside. It is said that Mashrabiyas are the ornaments of the rich as it costs a lot of time and finance to produce them.


The wooden screen with openable windows gives shade and protection from the hot summer sun while allowing the cool air from the street to flow through. The designs of the latticework are usually with smaller opening in the bottom part and larger openings in the higher parts, hence causing the draft to be fast above the head and slow in lower parts. This provides a significant amount of air moving in the room without causing it to be uncomfortable.

The projection of the Mashrabiya achieves several purposes, on one hand it allows air from three sides to enter, even if the draught outside was parallel to the house façade; on the other hand it serves the street and in turn the neighborhood. A row of projected Mashrabiyas provides shelter for those in the streets from rain or sun. The shade in normally narrow streets will cool the air in the street and increase the pressure as opposed to the air in the sahn, which is open to the sun making it more likely that it would flow towards the sahn through the rooms of the house. The Mashrabiya also provides protection and shade for the ground floor windows that are flat and usually unprotected.


One of the major architectural benefits is correcting the footprint shape of the land. Due to winding and irregular streets, plots of land are also commonly irregular in shape while the house designs are usually regular (squares and rectangles). This would cause irregular shapes of some rooms and creates dead corners. The projection allows correcting the shapes of the rooms on the upper floors, hence allowing the utilisation of the entire plot. This also increased the usable space without increasing the plot size.

On the street side, in addition to their ornamental advantage, they served to provide enclosure to the street and a stronger human scale.

Alternate spellings[edit]

    • Meshrebiya or mushrabiyah
    • Meshrebeeyeh, mashrebeeyeh or mashrebeeyah
    • Moucharabieh or moucharaby in the French language.
    • Musharabie or musharabia in Italian and German.
    • Muxarabi in Portuguese.
Shanasheel of the old part of Basra city, 1954

See also[edit]


  • Ching, Francis D. K. (1995) A Visual Dictionary of Architecture Van Nostrand Reinhold, NY

Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. 

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mashrabiya — Please support Wikipedia.
This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Wikipedia. A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia.
977 videos foundNext > 

Mashrabiya - 'M'

Official music video for Mashrabiya's "M" Directed and produced by Mashrabiya. Shot in Bluesbred Music studio http://www.bluesbred.com/ Edited by Anwar ...

Marble Mashrabiya

handcrafted skillfully with best patience & felt dedication - conceiving LIFE into marble after all is challenging ! Works in progress - marble jali / mashrabiya.

MASHRABIYA Shading element

Villa In The Negev.

Mashrabiya - Intro // "An Overture" Live at The Key, Melaka

Mashrabiya playing "An Overture" at Where's The Emotion Fest Volume 1 at The Key, Melaka on 9th May 2015. Thanks Adam for the video! Support the band by ...

Собираетесь в Al mashrabiya - узнайте правду об отеле

Al Mashrabiya Beach Resort 3 - Египет, Хургада. Обзор отеля - плюсы и минусы. Лучший обзор от УмноТур - купить ТУР - здесь...

انشاء مشربية على سطح منحني / this video explains how to make mashrabiya

انشاء مشربية على سطح منحني this video explains how to make mashrabiya ToolsOnSurface lattice maker bz-toolbar ...

MASHRABIYA - Ephemeral (Live at SWIMS // Mashrabiya Split EP Showcase, 11/4/2015)

Mashrabiya's first live performance during the Split EP Showcase with our buddies SWIMS at RUANG Shah Alam Video by: Alysha Support the band by ...

Making Of mashrabiya

Making of the QELA Mashrabiya


Luxury crafts - Mashrabiya

Life is relation, Life is adventure, Life is mix of cultures! Sofitel Cairo El Gezirah opens Egypt - The Heart of Middle East - for you! Through blending French ...

977 videos foundNext > 

489 news items

New York Magazine

New York Magazine
Wed, 01 Jul 2015 05:01:14 -0700

It's a modern incarnation of the mashrabiya, the ornamental screen that's common in Islamic architecture. Though Nouvel chafes against the relative powerlessness of the architect, it can also be a useful defense, particularly when it comes to the ...


Tue, 30 Jun 2015 02:11:15 -0700

Arrive here when it's dark for the full romantic effect of lantern-lit walkways emerging into the Zellij-tiled ante-room and the Mashrabiya-panelled dining room and then order the Pigeon soup entreé (flavoured with almonds and cinnamon) followed by a ...
Mon, 29 Jun 2015 04:54:18 -0700

Mashrabiya-style screens are a common feature in Brazilian architecture, having first been introduced by early Portuguese settlers. São Paulo-based Studio MK27, led by architect Marcio Kogan, also used this reference when designing an apartment block ...

Daily Mail

Daily Mail
Tue, 23 Jun 2015 18:02:41 -0700

The two-time Emmy nominee was, in fact, slathered with three pricey La Mer products - Concentrate, Treatment Lotion, and Moisturizing Lotion. Elizabeth's mysterious co-star for the Flaunt pictorial was Dorian Reeves wearing a Bob Basset mashrabiya mask.


Mon, 16 Mar 2015 15:21:35 -0700

Perforated wooden shutters allow the residents of this São Paulo apartment building by Studio MK27 to control the levels of daylight in their living spaces (+ slideshow). Vertical Itaim by Studio MK27. The Vertical Itaim building was designed by local ...

Aberdeen Press and Journal

Aberdeen Press and Journal
Mon, 22 Jun 2015 08:08:35 -0700

Upon entering the lobby, I was enveloped by the aura of the place, with rose petals littering the fountains and Mashrabiya-enhanced woodcarvings providing a stunning setting to relax. After a visit to the sleek gym and spa, I lazed by the pool sipping ...

World Tempus

World Tempus
Thu, 25 Jun 2015 15:07:30 -0700

In a tribute to the artistic tradition of Dubai, Hysek has placed broad wooden latticework panels (or mashrabiya) on these, simultaneously encircling and showcasing the store. This all-new concept will be bathed in soft light diffused from the sides of ...

Construction Week Online

Construction Week Online
Mon, 15 Jun 2015 21:41:15 -0700

The practice is working on a new headquarters for the Kuwait Investment Authority in the country's capital city, the design for which is inspired by four elements based on traditional Islamic design – the courtyard, sustainability, the mashrabiya and ...

Oops, we seem to be having trouble contacting Twitter

Support Wikipedia

A portion of the proceeds from advertising on Digplanet goes to supporting Wikipedia. Please add your support for Wikipedia!

Searchlight Group

Digplanet also receives support from Searchlight Group. Visit Searchlight