When Ibn Batutta was 21 years of age he left his home in Tangier, Morocco on a Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Traveling across land with a caravan, he visited cities along the North African coast: Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli, Alexandria and several smaller cities. Tunis was a major city of art and learning. It was also a shipping port for North African products and a market for goods from sub-Saharan Africa like gold, ivory, slaves and ostrich feathers. It contained splendid mosques and palaces, public gardens and colleges.
The North-Africa Court pays homage to these travels and captures the essence of the 14th century Islamic architecture of the region.
The Main Court has a village-like environment based on the coastal towns of Tunisia and Carthage.
Whitewashed stucco buildings with blue painted doors and windows recreate the picturesque narrow streets and souks of a typical African marketplace. This setting is further enhanced with streetlamps and lanterns hanging from walls supported by decorative brackets of Tunisian design.
A lot of attention to detail was paid to features like ornamental wrought-iron windows, various styles of crenellations, chiseled stucco, timber marquetry and glazed tile-mosaic.
Inspiration for the tile-work is derived from Moroccan Palaces and madrasas. This, along with Tunisian stained glass windows, adds colour and life to the buildings and create a playfully aesthetic environment.
There are also minarets from Tunis that reaches right up to the blue sky-ceiling.
The domed roofs remind one of a typical Tunisian skyline and such a scene is also painted on one of the back walls to add to this effect.
Many of the North African cities of Ibn Battuta’s time were surrounded by ramparts (walls of fortification). These were characterized by a forceful simplicity of architectural form. Robust stonewalls were adorned with little more than simple arched niches in shallow relief and stone crenellations on top. City gateways had stone arches resting on limestone columns.
A similar concept was used in the Main Court and in the towers at each of the three corners of the area as well as on the exterior facades.
The “ribat” (fortress) at Monastir and at Sousse have been the main inspiration for the Food Court Wall. This can be seen in the crenellations, mouldings and stonework. The gateways in front borrow from typical Moroccan and Tunisian gateways to Royal Palaces or market places
The central gate in front is decorated with arabesque patterns similar to those used in numerous Moroccan mosques.
Huge terracotta vases add an impressive finishing touch and symbolize African Trade.
The first thing that strikes the eye as one enters Concourse A is the vibrant design on the vaulted ceiling.
The patterns are based on ceiling designs of the Al Bahia Palace in Morocco.
Moroccan Palace-designs also inspired the mouldings on the inside of the arches and the magnificent network of arabesques, similar to those in the Kabah Mosque, are inlayed with turquoise-coloured glazing.
The white limestone pillars are typically found all over Tunisia and Morocco.
From the ceiling hang beautiful brass lanterns that have a distinct Moroccan flavour.