The Shir-Dor madrassah is one of the three medieval Islamic colleges on Registan Square in Samarkand. Its gigantic portal is entirely covered with exquisite mosaic decor arranged in complex patterns.

In Islam, the depiction of the living form in art is prohibited. The religious prohibition on figurative art gave rise to an abstract decorative style that included geometric patterns, arabesque motifs and calligraphy. Refined through centuries, the Arabic script became an important design element in Islamic art. Applied to every possible medium—from architecture to clothing—words in elaborate Arabic script were used not only to instruct the viewer, but also to lend visual beauty to works of art.