Islamic Geometry: A Six-Fold “Snowflake”

This week, we’re tackling a six-fold star patterns that shows up in Islamic monuments across the world, from the 9th century Mosque of Ibn Tulun in Egypt to the 15th century Shakh-i-Zindeh complex in Uzbekistan and the Eski Mosque in Turkey.

Left to Right: Eski Mosque, Mosque of Ibn Tulun, Shakh-i-Zindeh complex
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Islamic Geometry: Six-Fold Model

If you’ve liked diving into Islamic geometric patterns, it’s helpful to take a step back and look at the underlying armature before going further. Today, we’re going to talk about how to construct six-fold divisions of a circle. It’s called six-fold because it has six mirror lines. To put it another way, if drawn on paper, this pattern could be folded six different ways to create symmetrical halves.

Six-fold patterns will often contain triangles, hexagons, and dodecagons, since 3, 6, and 12 are divisions and multiples of 6.

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Islamic Geometry: A Window from Ibn Tulun Masjid

Since we started with the first geometric pattern that I learned, I thought we’d jump right on over to the most recently one I’ve draw. This pattern is from a window grille in the Mosque of Ibn Tulun, the oldest mosque in Egypt and the oldest surviving mosque in Africa. We drew this with William Charles Riding and the Prince Foundation School of Traditional Arts.

Photo from William Charles Riding

It’s also another a six-fold pattern with a central star. This time, though, the angles in the star aren’t 60º, so it requires a few extra lines.

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