The Arabic language was spoken by only the ruling classes. The common people, who were literates, had to learn the Muslim way of writing in order to keep up with their daily needs. Therefore, calligraphy was very important to these new generation Muslims.
In the early centuries the ruling elite in the Muslim Empire called themselves Quraish (Orientals). They adopted the Arab civilization’s calligraphy and used it extensively in their homes, buildings, and other public works. The Quraish rulers also adopted the decorative style of calligraphy that was prevalent in the other parts of the country. This served as a source of revenue as the citizens used this art to decorate their homes and make their work more beautiful. In the course of time, this decorative style became more widespread and the Quraish ruled an empire that was larger than the modern states in Africa and Asia.
The Islamic Empire’s Geographic Location
The Islamic Empire’s geographic location, along with the expanding trade routes, gradually led to the development of different types of cuisine. However, the staple diet of the early Arabs, mainly rice and wheat, remained unchanged for years, even centuries. As trade increased, the Arabic peoples embarked on the process of urbanization, which brought about a rapid evolution of their food habits and cooking techniques. Urbanization, however, did not lead to a shift in the traditional foods of the arab. As a result, many Arabic dishes are similar to those practiced in the urban areas today: food such as soups, stews, and salads containing wheat, lentils, and other grains; and meat that are most often grilled, such as pork.
The use of calligraphy in Arabic cuisine became prominent during the nineteenth century, when the calligrapher Abu Muhammad Al-Razi (Abu-al-zafar) was busy designing meals for the court of the Quraish caliph. The resulting artwork, called “taumat” or “taghaz”, is the earliest example of calligraphy being used for food. Although calligraphy in this form had been discovered much earlier, its application to this area of the world is noteworthy. Calligraphy is the use of ornamental, stylized lettering applied to various materials, usually wood, to portray particular written patterns, such as the name of an individual or a written recipe.
The influences of calligraphy in Arabic food have become particularly strong in the last century. Some of the most famous chefs and restaurants in the world, from France, Italy, and Spain to name a few, have made a specialty of serving Arab inspired dishes. These restaurants popularize the use of calligraphy on the walls of their establishments. Other restaurants and catering firms, operating in different regions of the world, are now also applying the use of this kind of lettering to their menus.
Another reason why Arabic cuisine has become associated with calligraphy is the use of these two important artistic forms in everyday clothing. In addition to the use of calligraphy on the walls of the restaurant and the catering services, abayas (outer wear) and sherwanis (traditional long dresses worn by Muslim women), come in a variety of calligraphy fonts.
Origins In Persia
In many cases, these clothing items are created using only one type of lettering, such as a basic barah (shirt), or a qalbiya (long gown). Some restaurants that offer their customers the opportunity to order these garments also print the decorative motifs on these products.
Many of these Arabic-inspired calligraphy fonts have their origins in Persia, the Islamic country that is today Iran. However, many of the patterns in use today came from Iraq, Egypt and other countries in the area of the Middle East. The intricate patterns that can be found in these calligraphy scripts came from the region’s rulers who were highly skilled in the art of calligraphy.
In addition to the written elements of Arabic calligraphy, it is the visual appeal of this decorative art form that makes it so appealing. The intricate nature of the letters, combined with the vibrant colors that are sometimes used in the images, is what makes this type of lettering so special. It is what allows the food that is written out to have the ability to draw the eye and become the center of attention. This is not only done on the walls of buildings and restaurants, but is also found in the intricate details of jewelry and other decorative artifacts. Architectural buildings, restaurants and other spaces in the home are adorned with calligraphy to capture the nature of this rich culture.