Walid Akef

Walid Akef

Graduate Fellow
Munà, Ǧinān, and Basātīn. Periurban and Suburban Luxury Estates in Nasrid Granada (1238-1492)
2022-2023 (September-December)
Walid Ake


Walid Akef is a PhD candidate in the History of Art and Architecture Program at Harvard University. Walid earned a BA in Islamic art history from Ain Shams University in Cairo (2008), where he was later appointed a teaching assistant (2009-2016). He obtained an ERASMUS fellowship both at the Universidad de Granada (2015), where he later pursued an MA in Art History, and at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (2016) in Spain. Walid found his way to London where he undertook another interdisciplinary master’s degree in Muslim cultures at ISMC (the Aga Khan University) (2018). Walid graduated with distinction and his research project on the late-medieval Andalusi luxury estates was awarded best dissertation.


Project Summary

The rise of the Islamic state in the 7th century, followed by the conquest of Greater Syria, North Africa, and the Iberian Peninsula, did not lead to a sudden rupture in the artistic cultures of these regions. The nascent state instead engaged in a process of cultural negotiation with the art of late antiquity that resulted in the integration of different artistic and architectural types and forms. One of these architectural types was the suburban luxury villa that, while serving varied functions, was primarily a source of pleasure and income. Although the presence of such villas had begun to wane in the Christian polities around the Mediterranean, their construction continued to proliferate across the Muslim world. The project considers the late-medieval examples of these estates that were built around the city of Granada (Spain), the capital of the Nasrid emirate (1238-1492). The project has an interdisciplinary approach and counts on varied sources and genres in order to analyze these villas artistically, architecturally and urbanistically, and to investigate the socio-economic, cultural, and political implications of their construction. The project further studies the coeval Mediterranean villa cultures in North Africa and Italy in search of connections and similarities, and to analyze the impact of regional and local traditions on the location, formation, and functionality of the estates.