A Mashrabeeya Tale

Since the old times, Mashrabeeya has been a useful and valuable adornment in buildings, houses and mosques. Installed as a window sill to filter the air and natural light, allowing cool breeze and attractive silhouettes to come inside; as a roofing that is connected to a second floor window to provide a charming combination of light and shade on the ground floor; as a natural air-conditioner in the Mosques for Muslims praying at the courtyard; and as a partition that veils traditional Arab women from their husbands’ male guests, thus giving her freedom to watch her husband and his companions in obscurity – hence the term Mashrabeeya, which means to observe.

There are various designs that constitute Mashrabeeya’s latticework. The most commonly used are Manguri and Arabesque.

The simpler design carved with single  or dual shapes are Manguri.Solely originated in Egypt, its patterns echo clean geometric lines in the form of diamonds or 6-pointed stars, better known in Islam as the Star of David.

Arabesque, on the other hand is a more complex and a universal Arabic pattern of Mashrabeeya that is assembled with a traditional wood turning machine. It is ornamented with small wooden carvings and beads, interwoven to create flowery and birdlike patterns, calligraphy from the Kor-an, a hanging lamp or sinewy stalactite formations. In the vein of such infinite nature, the application of Mashrabeeya as well follows.

The Mashrabeeya is laid out in panels which can be cut and glued together with other designsor mediums, such as stone, brick, glass, brass and copper. Its traditional functions are as window and roof fittings and indoor dividers, but in the modern times, several other functions have been created from it. From wardrobe armoires, frames, cornices, bed boards and bases, chairs, table tops, walls, banisters, pergolas, jewellery boxes, floor enhancements with glass lining to any kind of function. The list is infinite. From this utterly flexible layout one can apply in any form depending on one’s objective and creativity.

Elements

The distinctive elements of Mashrabeeya are the wood and the latticework. The type of wood used dictates its price and reliability. Teak and Zan (popular in the Mideastern countries) hardwoods are traditionally used in mass production. They are resilient, inexpensive and are quite efficient in absorbing humidity. Meanwhile, harder woods like Lemon and Ebony are likewise utilized but are more expensive as they are more resilient and flexible to extreme weather conditions.

The type of latticework, on the other hand plays a big role in maximizing the environment.Latticeworks with narrow holes in the bottom part and wider in the higher part allows comfortable air flow above the head, while the uniformed narrow designs serve as a shield from excessive light and heat. Thus if it is assembled as a three-corner window, it swallows air from three sides, shunning the draught that radiates from adjacent edifices.

Cost

Listed below are the cost of each panel per square meter.

Note: Costs do not include shipping and handling fee.

Manguri (Zan wood) P 2,250 – P 2,500

Manguri (Teak wood) P 1,200

Traditional Arabesque (Zan wood) P 2,500

Traditional Arabesque (Ebony wood) P 3,000

Chunky Arabesque (Zan wood) P 1,800

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