Islamic Art: Where Geometry and Culture Meet

Spain & Morocco

(Program Cancelled for 2020)

On Campus: March 11-May 8, 2020
Off Campus: May 16-May 28, 2020

Alhambra, Granada, Spain

Program Highlights

  • Meet Math AND IC (intercultural) designations for Common Curriculum requirements
  • Immerse yourself in beautiful designs to understand how geometry, art and faith fuse.
  • Create your own mosaic patterns using Islamic styles and techniques.
  • Understand how Islamic and Christian artistic expression are similar and how they differ.
  • Learn about living Islam in St. Cloud, MN; Granada, Spain; and Fez, Morocco
  • Develop an appreciation of mosaic patterns and arabesque designs, examining them from a variety of points of view 

 While you are abroad you will: 

  • Visit the Alhambra Palace in Granada and the Alcazar in Sevilla to study their beautiful mosaics and arabesque carvings.
  • Wander through the medina (marketplace) in Fez and see artisans at work creating Islamic art, including a visit to the oldest (over 1000 years) leather tannery in the world.
  • See the 10th century Mosque in Córdoba and how it was transformed into a cathedral.
  • Visit the largest mosque in Africa, in Casablanca.

Market in Fez, Morocco

Course & Program Information

Course Name: Math Explorations - Islamic Art: Where Geometry and Culture Meet

Course Number: MATH 114A

Credit Number: 4

Designation: fulfills Mathematics (MT) & Intercultural (IC)

Pre-Requisite: three years of college preparatory mathematics & MATH proficiency or QSI or permission of instructor.

Forest of Pillars, Interior of the 8th century mosque

Course Description

This course combines classroom learning at CSB/SJU during CD mod and ends with an experiential component abroad. A course to enrich the students' liberal arts education by presenting the spirit and some insights of mathematics. The course will emphasize understanding over techniques. Topics will illustrate the nature of contemporary mathematics and the relationship between mathematics and our cultural heritage. Some possible topics include: algorithms, exotic geometries, finance, map coloring, graphs, groups and mathematical modeling.

Program Information:

The intricate designs of Islamic art intrigue geometers, awe tourists and evoke spiritual contemplation for Muslims. We will approach these artistic designs from both mathematical and cultural viewpoints. In the first half of the course, on campus, we will examine the geometry underlying Islamic decorative arts and learn about the cultural and religious context that informs those artistic choices. We will then travel to Spain (Cordoba and Granada) & Morocco (Fez and Casablanca) for first-hand experience with Islamic art in its cultural context.

Moroccan weaver at his station

Program Cost & Financial Considerations

The estimated program fee is $5,150. The billing for the entire cost of this course/program is on the regular schedule with the CSB/SJU billing system for spring semester. Students participating in this course are eligible to apply all their state, federal, and institutional scholarships, grants, and loans to the cost of this course. While grants and scholarships do not increase based on the cost of the course, you may have access to additional loans. 

The program fee includes:

  • Housing while program is in session
  • Roundtrip international airfare from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Barcelona, Spain, then from Casablanca, Morocco to Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • Program-related excursions, entrance fees & transportation
  • Local transportation for program related activities
  • Some Group Meals
  • CISI Medical & Evacuation Insurance

The program fee does not include:

  • Passport application fee ($145)
  • Some food/meal expenses
  • Non-program related travel or housing

The Short-Term Abroad Financing Brochure includes estimates for the items not included in the program fee, along with information regarding scholarships for study abroad.


Students will stay in double-occupancy hotel or hostel accommodations while in Spain & Morocco. Breakfast is included with the hostel/hotel stay. Wifi is available at all locations.

Program Director Information

Thomas Sibley has taught mathematics at CSB/SJU since 1984. He served in the Peace Corps in the Congo and taught in Liberia. His mathematical interests include geometry and algebra. Contact Thomas Sibley.
Jennifer Galovich has taught mathematics at CSB/SJU since 1986. Her special interests include combinatorics and mathematical biology. Contact Jennifer Galovich.

Both have travelled extensively, including several predominantly Muslim countries.