Department of History of Art and Archaeology & Centre for Iranian Studies

Dr Simon O'Meara

Key information

Department of History of Art and Archaeology Reader in the History of Architecture & Archaeology of the Islamic Middle East Centre for Iranian Studies Advisory Committee Member
Department of History of Art and Archaeology & Centre for Iranian Studies
PhD (Leeds)
Russell Square: College Buildings
Email address
Telephone number
+44 (0)20 7898 4559
Support hours
Wednesdays, 1:30pm–3:30pm


My BA and MA are in Art History, both with a strong component of visual theory, but my PhD (Leeds, 2004) is in Arabic and Islamic Studies.

I chose that particular PhD path because having lived in Fez, Morocco for a number of years after completing the MA I felt I needed expertise in subjects not necessarily associated with Islamic art history. I wanted to understand the "Islam" part of Islamic art.

After obtaining the PhD, I initially taught Islamic and Western art history at the American University of Kuwait. I then accepted a postdoctoral position at Utrecht University, where I was the material culture research fellow on the European Research Council-funded project, 'The here and the hereafter in Islamic traditions'. I came to SOAS in 2014.

Research interests

I am an architectural historian of early to pre-modern Islamic culture, with a regional specialism in North Africa and a research specialism in the materiality of Islam and Islamic visuality. This research specialism means my work is informed not only by the foundational texts and discourses of Islam, but also by sociologically minded studies into the workings of Islamic culture and Muslim societies.

In brief, I am interested in what material culture makes "thinkable" in Islamic culture and how vision is socialised. My first monograph, Space and Muslim Urban Life (2007), represented an early embodiment of these two interests, for in analysing a fundamental unit of Islamic urban architecture, the party wall, according to its treatment in a number of religious and legal discourses, it revealed a spatial and visual structuring phenomenon at play in pre-modern cities of North Africa.

My second monograph, The Kaʿba Orientations: Readings in Islam's Ancient House (2020), takes the two interests further by focusing on the Kaaba of Mecca and the spatial, visual, and other orientations the temple's materiality effectuates.


Contact Simon