Name of Object:

Pilgrim’s Flask


Damascus, Syria

Holding Museum:

National Museum of Damascus

About National Museum of Damascus, Damascus

Date of Object:

Hegira 742–6 / AD 1341–5

Museum Inventory Number:

ع / 1557

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Moulded earthenware.


Height 27.3 cm, diameter (of body) 18.5 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Aleppo or Hama, Syria.


This canteen, often described as a pilgrim's flask, is a container used to carry water while travelling, on pilgrimage, or hunting trips. It is manufactured using a mould and its body is in the form of a disc with a mouth and a pair of loops attached to the side. To keep water from spilling out, the mouth is elongated by a tube of earthenware resembling a set of gradually narrowing rings stacked one on top of the other. The two loops flanking the flask's mouth can be strung by a rope to hang on the hip while travelling on foot, horse or camel-back.
The surface of the body is decorated with a moulded imprint boldly portraying a Mamluk blazon, known in Arabic as 'rank'. The open-winged eagle on top of a chalice that is flanked by flowers is known to be the blazon of Prince Toquztimur. It is believed that he started out as an official cup-bearer and his blazontherefore displays the cup. When he rose to the rank of governor for Sultan Nasir al-Din Muhammad (r. AH 709–41 / AD 1309–40), he added the symbol of the eagle as a tribute to the Sultan. The six-petal roses that appear underneath the eagle may signify a tribute to Nasir al-Din's family, the Qalawun.

View Short Description

This flask decorated with an emblem, a fashion that became popular during the Mamluk period, carries a symbol of an eagle and identifies the owner as Prince Toquztimur, the Mamluk Governor of Hama and later Aleppo.

Original Owner:

Prince Toquztimur (r. AH 742–6 / AD 1341–5), Mamluk Governor of Hama and then Aleppo

How date and origin were established:

The canteen is datable by the blazon that identifies it with Prince Toquztimur (r. 742–6 / 1341–5). Similar objects have also been dated to this period.

How Object was obtained:

Purchased in 1933.

How provenance was established:

This object was found in Aleppo, but since Prince Toquztimur was the Governor of Hama and then of Aleppo, it is also possible that the flask was produced in Hama. Similar objects, in respect of both style of decoration and function have been given Syrian provenance.

Selected bibliography:

Abu al-Faraj al-Ush, M., A Concise Guide to the National Museum of Damascus, Damascus, 1969, p.225.
Atil, E., Art of the Mamluks: Renaissance of Islam, Washington DC, 1981, p.190.
Cluzan, S. et al (eds), Syrie: Mémoire et Civilisation, Paris, 1994, p.454.
Porter, V., Medieval Syrian Pottery, Oxford, 1981.
Soustiel, J., and Kiefer, C., La céramique islamique, Fribourg, 1985, p.132.
Watson, O., Ceramics from Islamic Lands, London, 2004, pp.120–7.

Citation of this web page:

Mona al-Moadin "Pilgrim’s Flask" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020.;ISL;sy;Mus01;33;en

Prepared by: Mona Al-Moadin
Translation by: Hilary Kalmbach (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: SY 47


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