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Arabic: zilīj
Other spelling: Zillij; Zellige

Mosaics, a method used in North Africa from Morocco to Libya, but originating in Morocco. Zellij is used mainly as ornament for walls, ceilings, fountains, floors, pools and tables.
Zellij uses terracotta tiles with smooth, shiny enamel covering held together by plaster. The common method is to place the coloured pieces facing down on a flat surface in distinct patterns, then plaster is poured over. When dry the whole plate is fastened to the wall, ceiling or any other construction. The tiles are usually square, with sides from 1-2 cm and up 10-15 cm, generally 2 cm thick. All depending on the design, any other geometric shape of the tiles can be used.
Zellij is very a variant of Islamic art, with its artistry free from recreating living creatures it is in full correspondence with Islamic regulations.
The oldest known examples of zellij are found in Morocco dating back to the 10th century, when only white and brown colours were in use. A boom in popularity came about in the 14th century, when promoted by the country's Merenid rulers. In the 17th century blue, red, green and yellow colours were introduced. Zellij is an art from very much alive in modern times, Fez and Meknes, both Morocco, are the main centres.
It is a medium to expensive form of decoration, used in all from finer private homes to the most exclusive mosques and royal palaces.

By Tore Kjeilen