SOAS University of London

Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Simon O'Meara

PhD (Leeds)
  • Overview
  • Teaching
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Simon O'Meara
Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Lecturer in the History of Architecture & Archaeology of the Islamic Middle East

School of Arts

Lecturer in the History of Architecture & Archaeology of the Islamic Middle East

London Middle East Institute (LMEI)


Dr Simon O'Meara
Email address:
020 7898 4559
SOAS University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Brunei Gallery
Office No:
Office Hours:
Fridays 4-5.30pm


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 taught art history for 5 years at the American University of Kuwait, Kuwait, where I was subsequently promoted to Associate Professor. I then left there for a 4-year fellowship at the University of Utrecht, Holland, where I was made the material culture research fellow on the European Research Council-funded project, "The here and the hereafter in Islamic traditions" ( I joined SOAS in September 2013, but deferred my arrival by one year in order to complete this fellowship.



I am an architectural historian of pre-Islamic, and early to pre-modern Islamic, urban culture. I have a regional specialism in North Africa and a methodological interest in using the foundational and/or preponderant discourses of Islamic culture to help explore the spatial and visual logic of urban Muslim societies. My first monograph, Space and Muslim Urban Life: At the Limits of the Labyrinth of Fez (2007), demonstrated the utility of this approach, for in analysing a fundamental unit of Islamic urban architecture, the party wall, according to its treatment in religious, legal, and literary discourses, it revealed a hitherto unexamined spatial and visual structuring phenomenon at play in the late medieval and pre-modern Arab-Muslim city. I am currently completing my second monograph, this time on the Kaaba and the spatial, visual, and other orientations it effectuates. It is provisionally titled, The Kaaba Orientations: How a House became a Home. My next project will likely concern the representation of architecture in medieval and pre-modern Arab and Persianate miniature painting.


Authored Books

O'Meara, Simon (2017) The Kaaba: Orientations in Space and Vision. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. (Forthcoming)

O'Meara, Simon (2007) Space and Muslim Urban Life: At the Limits of the Labyrinth of Fez. London; New York: Routledge.

Book Chapters

O'Meara, Simon (2018) 'Haptic Vision: Making Surface Sense of Islamic Material Culture.' In: Skeates, Robin and Day, Jo, (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Sensory Archaeology. Abingdon; New York: Routledge. (Forthcoming)

O'Meara, Simon (2017) 'The Kaaba of New York.' In: Kruse, Christiane and Meyer, Birgit and Korte, Anne-Marie, (eds.), Offensive Images. Religion, Art and Visual Culture in Plural Configurations. Paderborn: Fink Verlag. (Forthcoming)

O'Meara, Simon (2017) 'Once More Cosmophilia: Facing the Truth, Later.' In: Hillenbrand, Robert and Carole, (ed.), Festschrift for Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. (Forthcoming)

O'Meara, Simon (2016) 'Muslim Visuality and the Visibility of Paradise and the World.' In: Günther, Sebastian and Lawson, Todd, (eds.), Roads to Paradise: Eschatology and Concepts of the Hereafter in Islam. Leiden: Brill, pp. 555-565. (Islamic History and Civilization)

O'Meara, Simon (2015) 'From Space to Place: The Quranic Infernalization of the Jinn.' In: Lange, Christian, (ed.), Locating Hell in Islamic Traditions. Leiden: Brill, pp. 56-73. (Islamic History and Civilization)

O'Meara, Simon (2011) 'Vision in Fes at the Space between faʾ and sīn.' In: Ennahid, Said and Maghraoui, Driss, (eds.), Fez in World History : Selected Essays from the Proceedings of Fez in World History : an Interdisciplinary Conference. Ifrane: Al Akhawayn University Press.

O'Meara, Simon (2007) 'The Foundation Legend of Fez and Other Islamic Cities in Light of the Life of the Prophet.' In: Bennison, Amira and Gasgoine, Alison, (eds.), Cities in the Pre-modern Islamic World: The Urban Impact of Religion, State and Society. Oxon; New York: Routledge, pp. 27-41. (SOAS/Routledge Studies on the Middle East)


O'Meara, Simon (2012) 'The Space Between Here and There: The Prophet's Night Journey as an Allegory of Islamic Ritual Prayer.' Middle Eastern Literatures, 15 (3). pp. 232-239.

O'Meara, Simon (2011) 'Working the Circle in Islam: Rings and Roundabout Manoeuvring in the Koran, Sufism, and the Hajj.' Journal 31: Das Magazin des Instituts für Theorie (16/17). pp. 31-37.

O'Meara, Simon (2009) 'A Legal Aesthetic of Medieval and Pre-modern Arab-Muslim Urban Architectural Space.' Journal of Arab and Islamic Studies, 9. pp. 1-17.

Book Reviews

O'Meara, Simon (2006) 'Review of 'The Image of an Ottoman City: Imperial Architecture and Urban Experience in Aleppo in the 16th and 17th Centuries' by Heghnar Zeitlian Watenpaugh (The Ottoman Empire and its Heritage: Politics, Society and Economy, vol. 33), Leiden, Brill, 2004.' British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 33 (2). pp. 247-249.

O'Meara, Simon (2006) 'Review of 'Islamic Aesthetics: An Introduction' by Oliver Leaman (The New Edinburgh Islamic Surveys) Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press, 2004.' British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 33 (2). pp. 249-252.


O'Meara, Simon (2013) 'Fez, History, Art and Architecture.' In: Encyclopaedia of Islam, Third Edition. Leiden: Brill. pp. 104-110.

O'Meara, Simon (2012) 'Review of: God Is Beautiful; He Loves Beauty’: The Object in Islamic Art and Culture,” Fourth Biennial Hamad bin Khalifa Symposium on Islamic Art, organized by Sheila S. Blair and Jonathan M. Bloom, Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar, October 29-31, 2011.' International Journal of Islamic Architecture, 1 (1). pp. 188-191.

O'Meara, Simon (2011) 'Bazaar, Arab Lands.' In: Encyclopaedia of Islam, Third Edition. Leiden: Brill. pp. 92-95.

O'Meara, Simon (2008) 'Labyrinth: Moroccan Medinas.' The Middle East Institute's Architecture and Urbanism in the Middle East . Washington D.C. : The Middle East Institute. pp. 7-10.

This list was generated on Thu Jul 27 03:14:44 2017 BST.