Muslim mosques are spread throughout the world and represent some of the finest of Moroccan architecture. There are many components to a mosque's design that are interesting for students to study and try to replicate. These includes the more easily visible architectural elements such as domes or minarets, as well as details such as zillij designs or a mihrab, which indicates the direction of Mecca.
Break students into work groups and give each of them a shoebox. Tell them that this is their mosque and they can decorate it any way they want. Write the word "zillij," on the board. Explain to students that zillij is a feature of Moroccan architecture and Muslim mosques where plaster is covered with pieces of enamel in intricate patterns and designs. Point out that these decorative designs can be found on the floors, walls and ceilings, as well as in pools, on tables, or even in fountains.
Give students paper with grids on it, glue and some coloured pencils. Tell them that they must create a zillij for their mosque. Instruct students to examine photographs of Muslim mosques and study the patterns they find. Do this first as an entire class, reviewing several examples together. Ask questions for students to consider, like: Do you see any patterns? Is there a mathematical component you can see? How are colours used? Does there appear to be a central focal point?
Tell the students they can use all the additional craft materials to create windows, doors, or whatever else they'd like to do to their mosque. Point out to students the difference between Islamic art and that of Christian faith. In Islam statues or drawings aren't used to convey their faith; instead, the colour and design are meant to reflect their beliefs anonymously. Compare that to Christian faith where churches may have a cross, Jesus on a cross, or the Holy Mother.
Tell them they can also use the top of the shoebox to create an area outside of the mosque and leave the top exposed, revealing any zillij they've created and glued inside for viewing. Using toilet paper or paper towel rolls or paper rolled and taped, ask students to include a minaret as well. Examine photos of mosques further and point out additional features, like the prayer hall where worshippers gather to pray. These halls will generally be bare, with the exception of prayer rugs. The mosque will have a minbar, which is a platform at the front of the mosque where speeches or sermons are led. A mihrab an area of the mosque where the wall is indented to show the direction to Mecca, or qiblah. Domes frequently cover mosques, and are often decorated inside with zillij. Many mosques also have a minaret or a tower from which a call to prayer, or adhan, is made. These vary in size, height and design.