Painting Guide for Muslims of Al-Andalus

Arab fashions came and went, but there were certain patterns which applied across all Muslim lands: I give a general description then some specifics from certain regions.


Long topcoat, under tunic, trousers: Clothing colours were bright, e.g. scarlet, red, blue, yellow, green, white and brown. In some periods stripe were fashionable. Andalusians wore the same range of colours, but in pastel. Rich people (e.g. Chieftains) would have the brightest colours, and their cloths would also be decorated with gold and colour embroidery. The topcoat of Arab Conquest soldiers could have coloured arm bands (Tiraz).

Turbans: Andalusian turbans were invariably white. Others Arabs almost always used white; but occasionally coloured. Modern Tuareg have dark blue turbans to match their topcoats.

Shields: Ordinary soldiers would have brightly coloured shields with a simple pattern or no pattern, but rich people would have had elaborate designs, often gilded. The heart shaped Adarga shield used in Spain from 1150 AD was either plain leather or coloured (red, white with a red rim, or black), and sometimes had a simple motif (e.g. a star).

Stirrups: Wooden until about 700 AD, thereafter iron. Some Adalusians used a simple leather loop instead.

Leather and Quilted felt body armour: A common form of armour called a Bambakion by the Byzantines, which is derived from the Arab word pambuck meaning cotton. Some Fatamids were recorded as wearing “pink coloured jerkins”, but conceivably any colour would do.

Mail and scale armour: Iron.

Vambraces and greaves: Could be wood or metal.

Arab Variations

Arab Conquest

The topcoat of Arab Conquest soldiers could had coloured arm bands (Tiraz).


Some Umayyad soldiers, but not all, were issued with white uniforms. Standards were also white.


Some Abbassid soldiers, but not all, were issued with black uniforms. Standards were also black.


Standards were red, and the cloths probably were too.


Standards were green.


Standards were green.


Clothing colours tended to be red, yellow, blue and white, but in pastels.

Andalusian standards were about 4′ high and of varying widths. Most had a series of rounded tails. Motivational inscriptions were popular (e.g. ‘The Banner of God’). Standards of Andalusian cavalry units featured lion, leopard, eagle or dragon devices. Spanish Umayyad standards were green. Known examples of standards include:

  • White with dark blue zig zags.

  • Red with a black rectangular panel outlined in gold, with gold lettering inside; in this case the lettering is meaningless.
  • Blue and white spangled with gold crescents.
  • Ibn Hud preferred black flags.
  • Mohammed Al-Ahmar (‘the Red’) preferred red flags. (I’m not sure which ruler this refers to. One of the Granadine rulers, Mohammed ibn Yusuf, called himself ‘the Red Man’ but there were two Granadine rulers with this name Mohammed VII and Mohammed VIII.)

Iron stirrups were used, but some stirrups were simple leather loops, and some Andalusians didn’t use any stirrups.

The heart shaped Adarga shield adopted in Spain about 1150 AD, and predominating from 1200 AD, was either plain leather (tan or light brown) or coloured (red, yellow, white with a red rim, or black). Tassels were red, black or gold. Adarga sometimes had a simple device (e.g. a star, scorpion, terrapin).

Andalusians went bare headed, or wore a floppy red cap or turban. Andalusian turbans were invariably white, and some were wrapped around a red cap.

Hair colour was primarily black but red and yellow were common.

From 1086 some Andalusians adopted the black uniform of the Murabitum (see below).


Clothing colours were the normal range, but red and brown predominated.

The turban was back in favour and could be any colour. Some men wore a hooded cloak (i.e. Moorish Mantle or albornoz) instead.

Boots were mainly red (presumably Moroccan leather).

The heart shaped Adarga shield was replaced by a kidney shaped version but colour schemes were similar to those earlier (Andalusian).

Granadine armies carried many standards with them. Banu Nasrid (1354-1491) standards were all red (or given the example, reddish). The following is based on the flag of Granada in 1375:

The flag of Tlemcen from the same period was white with a gold crescent.


In 711 AD, at the invasion of Spain, the Berbers fought naked or in a loincloth. As time passed more and more adopted Arab attire, although some would have retained the minimalist approach with the simple addition of a Turban. Fully clothed Berbers wore a hooded top coat (chilaba) or half length top coat (djellabah).


They wore black topcoats, cloaks, and probably black veils as well. Chieftains decorated their cloths with Coptic designs (i.e. geometric designs).

Almohades or Maranid

Standard Arab colours, although topcoat likely to be stripped. 20th Century top coats were in tribal colours, and presumably this was true earlier; an example would be brown with white stripes. Like their Murabitun predecessors Almohade Chieftains decorated their cloths with Coptic designs (i.e. geometric designs).


Most Negroes fighting in their own armies were naked or in skins.

Negroes fighting in North Africa and Spain more or less adopted Berber or Arab dress. Typically this meant wearing a simple white skirt or tunic with a coloured waist band. There is one example of mounted Negro archers wearing white capes. Most Negroes were bare headed, although some wore turbans. The Black guardsmen mentioned in several sources would have been richly attired. Given some subjects of modern Tuaregs wear white, I assume most Negroes in North African would also have worn white, however, some Negroes fighting in Murabitun service adopted the dress of their masters. .

Sudanese Ghulums in Abbassid employ wore black coats and turbans.


Heath, I. (1980). Armies of the Dark Ages 600-1066 (2nd ed.). Wargames Research Group.

Heath, I. (1982). Armies of the Middle Ages, volume 1. Wargames Research Group.

Heath, I. (1984). Armies of the Middle Ages, volume 2. Wargames Research Group.

Heath, I. (1989). Armies of Feudal Europe 1066-1300 (2nd ed.). Wargames Research Group.

Nicolle, D. (1998). Granada 1492: The twilight of Moorish Spain (Campaign Series 53). Osprey.

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