A Five-Week Course: The Islamic City, Spirit and Identity, Past and Present

March 26-April 2, 2019

Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations

In four two-hour-long sessions plus a film evening (hence five sessions in all every Tuesday), this short course will introduce a general audience of non-specialists to the Islamic City, both historic and contemporary. Using the development, rise and present-day trajectories of a range of cities in the Islamic world as examples, the course will explore the following themes:

  • What are Islamic cities, and how have contemporary local architects been inspired by them in their work?
  • What are the intangible aspects of their identities and how do their communities see themselves with respect to their cities and places?
  • What are the civic institutions of Islamic cities, and ideas of patronage past and present?
  • How has pluralism played a part in historic Islamic cities, and how have Muslim communities found a place in the West today?
  • What opportunities and challenges face the preservation of Islamic built heritage?

Each of the four main sessions will be divided into 2 hour-long segments. The first segment will be dedicated to one key theme historically connected to the Islamic city, while the second hour will take up a contemporary issue related to that theme. Most classes will feature a guest specialist.

The film evening will follow a slightly different structure: it will consist of a film screening followed by a discussion.

This course has been specially developed for those who are not specialists in urbanism of the Islamic world, but who have an interest in the subject, and seek to learn by exposure to a wide range of examples, historic and contemporary. Each of the four sessions will be divided up into two segments consisting of a 45-minute visual presentation followed by 15 minutes  questions and answer session. The second half will consist of a presentation from the guest lecturer followed by a question and answer period.

In general, the first hour will focus more on history and the second hour will focus more on the contemporary.

The course will also include a range of extra activities:

  • A visit to a London Mosque, offering participants the chance to experience an Islamic building other than the Aga Khan Centre.
  • A tour of the Aga Khan Centre.
  • A documentary film screening about the heritage of the Islamic World

Seif El Rashidi will be the principal instructor, speaking in the first hour of each main session. Seif El Rashidi’s expertise is in urban conservation, heritage management, interpretation and engagement around history of art and architecture, especially of the Islamic world. He is currently the project manager for the ‘Layers of London’, which enables public engagement with London’s heritage through knowledge-sharing, and is also the director of The Barakat Trust. Seif previously managed the Magna Carta Programme at Salisbury Cathedral (2014-2016) and Durham World Heritage Site (2008-2014).  Prior to that, he worked for the Aga Khan Trust for Culture’s Historic Cities Programme (1997-2008) and for Ahmad Hamid Architects (1995-1997), both in Cairo.  Seif has lectured and written about the preservation of historic cities in a wide range of contexts and has been a guest lecturer on Durham University’s International Heritage Management Master’s Degree since 2012.                                              

The course will incude a range of guest lecturers including Ahmad Hamid, architect, and Shahed Saleem, author of The British Mosque.

Ahmad Hamid is an Egyptian architect who, as a young professional, collaborated with Hassan Fathy between 1978 and 1985, in The Institute for Appropriate Technology. Hamid’s architecture firm designs thought-provoking projects for diverse parts of the world. He has taught at various architecture departments in Cairo, including the American University, and served on numerous international architectural juries. Hamid was awarded a Fulbright Design study grant at Pratt Institute in 2006, the Frank G Wisner award in 2007, the Nadia Niazy Mostafa award in 2010, and The World Architecture Award in 2010. The American university Media Design Award 2011, and again The Word Architecture Award in 2013.  

Shahed Saleem is a practicing architect, and a design studio leader at the University of Westminster School of Architecture. He is also a Senior Research Fellow at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL working on the Survey of London’s project on the urban history of Whitechapel. His particular research and practice interests are in the architecture of migrant and post-migrant communities, and in particular their relationship to notions of heritage, belonging and nationhood. Saleem was commissioned by English Heritage to research and write the architectural and social history of the British Mosque, which is due for publication by Historic England in 2018. Through his architectural practice he has worked with faith communities for over 10 years in designing and delivering places of worship, and he regularly consults on academic and public projects focussing on the architecture and planning issues facing faith communities. His design work has been nominated for the V&A Jameel Prize 2013 and the Aga Khan Award for Architecture 2016. 

Time and Venue
Tuesdays 5 March-2 April 2019, 18.30-20.30
Aga Khan Centre, 
10 Handyside Street, 
London N1C 4DN

This course is free but booking is essential. Book as soon as possible.


Aga Khan Centre, 
10 Handyside Street, 
London N1C 4DN