The architecture of the Muslim West is marked by considerable continuity that extends over a significant geographic expanse (the Iberian Peninsula, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia) and a wide chronological span that dates back to the founding of the Umayyad Emirate in Spain during the second quarter of the 2nd / mid-8th century, and later included the rule of various dynasties such as the Idrisids, 'Abd al-Wadids, Almoravids, Almohads, Marinids, Hafsids, Sa'dians and 'Alawids.
The architecture of this area uses a variety of materials. Brick is predominant as a building material and is used for both structural and decorative purposes. Stone is also used, primarily as a sheathing material, and often in combination with brick. Stucco decoration is used extensively. Wood is employed widely for elements such as ceiling beams, gabled roofs, doors and decorative panels. Glazed tiles featuring geometric patterns provide a common surface-sheathing material for floors and walls, although austere white-washed walls are also widespread.
The hypostyle mosque continues to be the primary mosque type in the area, with the aisles usually arranged in a perpendicular order to the qibla
wall. The horseshoe arch, which emerged as a common architectural element in Aghlabid architecture, is predominant. Also, as in the architecture of the Aghlabids, minarets have a square section, which contrasts with the more slender minarets with circular and octagonal sections that develop in parts of the Islamic world located further east. Minarets in the Muslim West are often decorated with an applied layer of interlaced brick or stucco decorative patterns, as well as muqarnas
The structures of the region usually feature domes that are concealed under pitched roofs, which commonly have blue-green coloured baked-clay roofing tiles. Ribbing is used frequently for domes and, in addition to its structural role, is used to create decorative patterns articulating the dome's interior surface. Some dome interiors are fully covered by muqarnas
, usually made of wood or gypsum, is used extensively, not only to articulate vaulted areas, but also as an overall decorative element. Interlaced decorative surfaces, executed in gypsum or brick, are widespread. Also common are paired arches separated by a column, as well as interlaced and poly-lobed arches. In addition, the use of calligraphy and vegetal motifs prevail. In the early architecture of the region, as in other Islamic architectural traditions, the re-use of building components such as column capitals and shafts belonging to the pre-Islamic period is widespread.