I love calligraphy in any language or script, but especially in Arabic. Here, I have amassed my photos of calligraphy from mosques, universities, perfume bottles, “safari fashion” boutiques, and Fanta cans. The photos are from Egypt, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates. There is a mix of styles and level of refinement. (Update: It should be noted that several photos included in this post are examples of Arabic typography, not calligraphy, but I am going to leave the images in the gallery below, as they provide some interesting variety.)
Much of the calligraphy in the mosque photos is Thuluth, (الثلث,) a gracerful, difficult-to-master, sweeping style of Arabic calligraphy. (See top image.) There are also examples of Kufic (الكوفي,), which is quite angular, and Naskh, (النسخ,)which is rounded like thuluth, but more compact and less sinuous. The nature of thuluth lends itself to architectural decoration, while naskh is more suited to lettering for books. Naskh is the calligraphy style most used to copy the Quran. There is crossover, though, of course.
Additionally, there are other styles, such as Diwani, (الديواني,)Riqa’a, (الرقعة,)and Farsi. Farsi calligraphy is a very elegant, fluid writing style. It is also popular for writing Farsi (of course!), Urdu, Pashto, and in the past, Ottoman Turkish.
Riqa’a is the style closest to the everyday handwriting of most present-day, literate Arabic speakers. It is quite fast to write, with abbreviated forms, and less of the elaboration of the other scripts, like defined serifs. (see example below)
Diwani calligraphy is beautiful, but it can be tricky to read. It is very stylized. The letters are quite rounded and can be joined in unusual ways. Sometimes, the space around the letters will be filled with small marks for decorative purposes, which can be confusing at first, when one is accustomed to assuming those little marks over the letters are vowel markers. The word ‘untethered’ comes to mind when I look at diwani calligraphy. The letters are very free-flowing.
All of the examples in red say “Elizabeth” and were done by Bessam Hegazy, my calligraphy teacher in Cairo. He was quite talented, I must say, and the fluidity of his writing made all of the styles look impossibly easy.
Here is a chart I harvested from the internet with a side-by-side comparison of some of the major styles. At least some, if not all of the examples in the chart are computer fonts, but they give a general idea of the character of the different scripts.