Sabil Birkat al-Sultan
Sabil of Bab al-Khalil
Located on the southwest side of Bab al-Khalil (Jaffa Gate), one of the city gates on the road between Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron. Located in a lively area of the city, it receives visitors from both the west and south, Jerusalem
Hegira 10th Muharram 943 / AD 29th June 1536
The construction supervisor was Muhammad Chalabi al-Naqqash, the guardian of the sultan’s revenues as well as the construction manager for the walls of Jerusalem.
Sultan Sulayman the Magnificent (r. 926–74 / AD 1520–66).
The Sabil Birkat al-Sultan is one of the six sabils that were erected in Jerusalem by order of Sultan Sulayman the Magnificent. The sabil is built with cut white stone in a multiplicity of sizes, which form a rectangle 3.70 m long and 1.5 m wide. In front of the sabil block there is a recess 71 cm deep and 1.9 m long. Above the recess is a pointed arch composed of stone voussoirs decorated with saw-like ornamentation, in a style known as a Persian arch. The voussoirs are surrounded by moulded decoration. On each of the two sides of the arch there is a projecting circular stone medallion devoid of decorative elements. Around the bulk of the sabil, on both sides and above it, there is a frame of moulded decoration that terminates with more embellishment where the base of the sabil starts to form.
The recess of the sabil is composed of three decorative architectural units. In the lower part of the recess there is a rectangular marble plaque which has an opening in the middle to allow water to flow from the sabil reservoir (located at the back) to the basin. At the top of the recess there are three tiers of muqarnas crowned by a small ribbed shell. In the middle of the niche, below the muqarnas tiers, there is an inscription panel. The panel is composed of three lines carved in Ottoman naskhi script which allude to the command to construct the sabil, the titles of the builder and the date of its construction. The inscription reads:
“The construction of this blessed sabil was ordered by our lord the Sultan, the Great Ruler, The Sovereign, The Noble, the Lord of Nations, the Sultan of Rome [Byzantium], the Arabs and the 'Ajam [Persians], Sultan Sulayman, son of Sultan Selim Khan. May God grant him a long reign and sovereignty on the date of the 10th of Muharram in the year AH 943 [29th June 1536].”
This was the only sabil (public fountain) of the six commissioned by Ottoman Sultan Sulayman the Magnificent to be built outside the walls around Jerusalem. It is located on the road that connects Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron. The sabil is provided with water from a canal linked to Solomon’s Pools. Inside a recessed niche, open at the front, in the middle of a rectangular plaque an opening allows water to pour into a wide basin. Above the basin is a large foundation inscription. The sabil is constructed of cut stone in different sizes with rich decorative motifs. Behind the building is a reservoir which collects the water.
The sabil was dated by the inscription on its façade, and further supported by a waqf document in the archive of the Shari'a Court of Jerusalem, that dates to AH 948 / AD 1541.
Berchem, M. van, Materiaux pour un Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarium (Part II), Cairo, 1922.
Al-Imam al-Hussaini, M. A., al-Manhal al-Safi fi al-Waqf wa Ahkamihi [A Clear Spring in the Waqf and its Execution], Jerusalem, 1982.
Natsheh, Y., “Sabil Birkat al-Sultan”, in S. Auld and R. Hillenbrand (eds), Ottoman Jerusalem: The Living City 1517–1917 (Part II), London, 2000.
Yusuf al-Natsheh "Sabil Birkat al-Sultan" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021. 2021. http://islamicart.museumwnf.org/database_item.php?id=monument;ISL;pa;Mon01;25;en
Prepared by: Yusuf Al-NatshehYusuf al-Natsheh
Yusuf Said Natsheh is a Palestinian and since 1997 he has been Director of the Department of Islamic Archaeology in al-Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem. He is a lecturer at al-Quds University. He was educated in Jerusalem and Cairo and in 1997 obtained his Ph.D. from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Dr Natsheh is a council member of many Palestinian societies for architectural heritage and a consultant for various projects on Jerusalem. He has written books and more than 40 articles about Jerusalem's architectural heritage including the architectural survey of Ottoman architecture in R. Hillenbrand and S. Auld (eds) Ottoman Jerusalem: The Living City 1517–1917 (London: Altajir World of Islam Trust, 2000). He has contributed to many international and national conferences. He supervised the restoration project, sponsored by the Arab League, on Mamluk monuments in and around al-Haram al-Sharif, and was Palestinian expert for the UNESCO mission to Jerusalem in 2004.
Copyedited by: Majd Musa
Translation by: Amal Sachedina (from the Arabic).
Translation copyedited by: Mandi GomezMandi Gomez
Amanda Gomez is a freelance copy-editor and proofreader working in London. She studied Art History and Literature at Essex University (1986–89) and received her MA (Area Studies Africa: Art, Literature, African Thought) from SOAS in 1990. She worked as an editorial assistant for the independent publisher Bellew Publishing (1991–94) and studied at Bookhouse and the London College of Printing on day release. She was publications officer at the Museum of London until 2000 and then took a role at Art Books International, where she worked on projects for independent publishers and arts institutions that included MWNF’s English-language editions of the books series Islamic Art in the Mediterranean. She was part of the editorial team for further MWNF iterations: Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean Virtual Museum and the illustrated volume Discover Islamic Art in the Mediterranean.
True to its ethos of connecting people through the arts, MWNF has provided Amanda with valuable opportunities for discovery and learning, increased her editorial experience, and connected her with publishers and institutions all over the world. More recently, the projects she has worked on include MWNF’s Sharing History Virtual Museum and Exhibition series, Vitra Design Museum’s Victor Papanek and Objects of Desire, and Haus der Kulturen der Welt’s online publication 2 or 3 Tigers and its volume Race, Nation, Class.
MWNF Working Number: PA 25
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