Zelij bicycle wheel

December 2, 2014

Well, I don’t update this blog very often, do I?!

Here’s a mountain bike wheel that strikes me as very Zelij-like:

Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 20.19.06


A video about Symmetry: Marcus du Sautoy

November 1, 2009

You can’t really discuss zelij without thinking about it’s symmetry, and the TED.com talk below is an excellent primer on the subject. Marcus du Sautoy is the new science ambassador for Oxford University, and his talk below includes some discussion of the Al Hambra, whose patterns – of course – are intimately related to those of Morroco.

Not Zelij!

May 26, 2009

At first glance this looks very Zelij-like:

But it isn’t. It is in fact a mathematical investigation into tiling the plane with tiles of fivefold symmetry. See the full article by Craig Kaplan at Plus Magazine for a nice in depth discussion of the problem.

The Trouble With Five

Rare sighting of zelij in London

May 15, 2009

Despite being one of the most aesthetically pleasing methods of covering a surface, zelij seems hardly to have moved out of it’s main sites of origin of Morocco and southern Spain.

Certainly I never see anything in London that resembles it in public spaces – we get stuck with very ordinary tiling patterns on the whole – but this morning I spotted an interesting manhole cover, with a pattern not unlike the central stars of many a zelij pattern:


Borough High St, London, SE1

I don’t think the Moroccans would stick a rather awkward square in the middle though…

Excitingly you can even see it on Google Street View:

Quick drawing

April 2, 2009

Copied out of Jean Marie Castera’s ‘Arabesques’:


Could do it better if I was using a ruler and not half watching the Apprentice.

The point is – if you are at all interested in the construction and art of zelij, you have to have this book:


Arabesques: Decorative Art in Morocco, by Jean-Marie Castera.

It’s a quite pricey, but worth every single penny.

A Zelij Applet

March 23, 2009

A fellow has created an applet to generate zelij patterns automatically:


I have to say, despite the knowledgeable sounding intro, the patterns generated are not very authentic (at least I couldn’t get anything to look very authentic)

The failing seems to be in the construction of the patterns – I have a book which describes a much better system which if implemented would generate much better patterns (but would this be a bit of a soulless process? Part of the attraction is the effort required and the artistry of the original craftsmen)

Quantum Chip

February 3, 2009

This is a quantum chip – using principles of superposition of individual atoms to perform calculations. Known as Qubits for Quantum Bits, the pattern is pleasingly zelij-like.quantumchip

Science and Islam: BBC documentary

January 9, 2009

A fine new3 part documentary has just begun on BBC4 about the history of science in Islamic countries between the 8th & 14th centuries.

It’s not exactly Zelij related, but without a good understanding of mathematics and geometry, the art of Zelij would be well nigh impossible, and these documentaries explore how such knowledge was acquired and discovered at this early period.

It can be watched online at this url, at least for the next month or so, but probably only if you are based in the UK:


Lunar eclipe

Lunar eclipse


A nice example of Islamic astronomy showing different phases of the moon by a scholar called al-Bīrūnī who lived in the 10th century in what is now Afghanistan.

Progression of centre star complexity

December 17, 2008

Came across some more photos I took in Marrakesh & Fez.

Column with repeating 8-point star
Am especially impressed with the way the column face is exactly the right width for the design.


Three interwoven 8-point stars in the ‘wicker-work’ style


16 point star
Slightly more elaborate…


64-point star ceiling
Normally the centre star in designs have 8 points; 16 if the designer was in an extravagant mood (see above). However one particular palace had many 32 and 64 point stars. Complexity nearly to the point of absurdity, and actually not as aesthetically pleasing as the simpler designs, in my humble opinion.


Making the tiles

December 12, 2008

Youtube footage of a tile worker laying a tile flooring.
It has a happy ending.