The rhythm and harmony of street views and skylines, the balance between the green and the built-up areas, the width of streets, height of buildings and the materials and colours of a city, these are all key elements of appropriate city planning.
The traditional Islamic city grew up almost organically, naturally, interspersed with pious building complexes around mosques, other large devotional edifices and market places that opened onto airy public and private courtyards from which peripheral public spaces, thronged with small lanes, could be reached. At this time the focal points of the skyline were the domes of mosques and minarets, which rose up as physical and spiritual points of orientation, the pillars of all human life.
The physical and visual changes that occurred in Arab and Ottoman cities were due both to the evolution of the local community’s needs and were also the result of political, economic and cultural interactions with Europe. Architectural and planning ideas from Europe greatly altered the urban texture and skyline of Islamic cities, with new public buildings arranged along axial lines and around grand squares. Now the domes and minarets that had once dominated the city’s skyline vied for attention among many other tall buildings, including clock towers, which introduced additional points of orientation and signalled the importance of the organisation of time in the industrial era.