One of the outstanding influences of Islam was in architecture. The Alhambra in Spain, Hagia Sofia in Turkey, and the Taj Mahal in India, are some of the few finest architectural wonders of the world.
In the Philippines, mosque are built following the classic Muslim lines; externally, a onion-shaped dome topped by a crescent and the minaret, internally, the prayer-niche that marks the direction of Mecca towards which all Muslims turn in prayer.
In the Muslim Town of Quiapo, the Mosque del Globo del Oro with its dome, painted in gold and vibrant geometric designs is the largest mosque in Manila. This architectural landmark was built in 1976, under the direction of then first lady Imelda Marcos. It is said that the mosque was built to impress visiting Libyan President Muammar Khadafya. However, for some reason, Khadafy’s state visit to Manila was cancelled.
The mosque’s spacious floor area are divided by low columns supporting the pointed arches. The wide arched-windows allow air to circulate freely around the mosques. The natural light that fills the soft yellow walls and gleaming marble floors provides a mellow atmosphere suitable for prayer.
The mosque’s exterior wall are decorated with colorful mosaic-tile patterns of geometric and floral designs called the okir. The okir is a Filipinized version of the arabesque motif in Islamic art. Arabesque design of repeating geometric forms and fancifully combined patters are found decorating the walls of mosque around the word.
The okir traditionally adorns the panalong, the carved wooden beams that protrude the ancestral houses of the Maranaos or the torogan. It is found in local handicraft, woven on textiles and baskets, carved into wooden objects, and etched into knives or brass pieces.
While walking around Quiapo’s Muslim town, we found stores where the okir design combined with Islamic symbols printed on prayer books, etched on brass decorative objects, and embroidered on religious caps.