SOAS University of London

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

Dr Simon O'Meara

PhD (Leeds)
  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Publications


Simon O'Meara
Department of History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

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

London Middle East Institute (LMEI)


Centre for Iranian Studies

Advisory Committee Member

Dr Simon O'Meara
Email address:
+44 (0)20 7898 4559
SOAS University of London
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
Russell Square: College Buildings
Office No:
Academic Support Hours:
Term 3: Thursdays, 11:30-1pm


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.



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.


Authored Books

O'Meara, Simon (2020) The Kaʿba Orientations: Readings in Islam's Ancient House. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

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


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 Arabic and Islamic Studies, (9), pp 1-17.

Book Chapters

O'Meara, Simon (2022) 'Sacred Space'. In: Leaman, Oliver, (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Islamic Ritual and Practice. London: Routledge.

O'Meara, Simon (2022) 'Mecca and other Cosmological Centres in the Sufi Universe'. In: Lange, Christian and Knysh, Alexander D., (eds.), Handbook of Sufi Studies. Vol. 2: Sufi Cosmology. Leiden: Brill. [Forthcoming]

O'Meara, Simon (2021) 'Once More Cosmophilia: Facing the Truth, Later'. In: Hillenbrand, Robert, (ed.), The Making of Islamic Art : Studies in Honour of Sheila Blair and Jonathan Bloom. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

O'Meara, Simon (2021) 'Out of Sight in Morocco, or How to See the Jinn in the Modern-day Museum'. In: Fromherz, Allen and Samin, Nadav, (eds.), Knowledge, Authority and Change in Islamic Societies: Studies in Honor of Dale F. Eickelman. Leiden: Brill, pp 76-98.

O'Meara, Simon (2019) 'Haptic Vision: Making Surface Sense of Islamic Material Culture'. In: Skeates, Robin and Day, Jo, (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Sensory Archaeology. Abingdon: Routledge, pp 467-480.

O'Meara, Simon (2018) 'The Kaaba of New York'. In: Kruse, Christiane and Meyer, Birgit and Korte, Anne-Marie, (eds.), Taking Offense: Religion, Art, and Visual Culture in Plural Configurations. Paderborn: Fink Verlag, pp 140-161.

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.

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.

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.

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'.

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.

O'Meara, Simon (2011) 'Bazaar, Arab Lands'.

O'Meara, Simon (2008) 'Labyrinth: Moroccan Medinas' The Middle East Institute's Architecture and Urbanism in the Middle East.


This list was last generated on Monday, 26th September 2022, 22:59 Europe/London.