Name of Object:

Ceramic tile with a picture of the Ka‘ba


Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

Holding Museum:

Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts

 About Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Sultanahmet

Date of Object:

Hegira last quarter of the 10th century / AD 16th century

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Iznik tile of white clay, with a painting of the Ka‘ba in underglaze.


Height 62 cm, width 34 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Iznik, Turkey.


Blue, green and red pigments have been used on a white background. A border with a chain-motif, drawn in black on a blue background, frames the single-piece tile. This is enriched by a second border made up of blue palmettes which ends at the top of the tile in a mihrab shape. The mihrab's two corners are decorated with interlacing rumi (split-palmette) motifs on a dark-blue background. In the middle of the mihrab, also on a dark-blue ground, is a symmetrical pediment motif decorated with arabesques, at the bottom of which is an inscription in three rows of black naskhi script. The inscription contains sura 3, verses 96–7 of the Qur'an: 'Lo! the first Sanctuary appointed for mankind was that at Becca [Mecca] a blessed place, a guidance to the peoples; Wherein are plain memorials (of Allah's guidance); the place where Abraham stood up to pray; and whosoever entereth it is safe.' Below this text, the Masjid al-Haram is depicted within a rectangle drawn in green and blue. The Ka'ba is shown in the middle of the Masjid al-Haram, recognisable by its porticoed courtyard. The various buildings, gates, sacred spots (maqams), and water-wells located within the porticoes are represented and identified with their names.

Introducing the holy cities of Islam (Mecca and Medina) and the sacred sites therein with books, and reinforcing this introduction with pictures, is seen from the early period of Islam. Detailed pictures of these holy places were put in pilgrimage certificates, which were made especially in the Ayyubid period, and which have an important place in the Museum's collection. These documents begin with the banner of the caliph of the time and show painted images of Mount Arafat, Muzdalifa, the Sacred Enclosure (al-Haram al-Sharif), Medina, and even Jerusalem. Similar pictures of the holy places were made for pilgrimage certificates in Ottoman art. Beginning at the end of the 10th / 16th century images of the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca are also found depicted on tiles in certain mosques.

View Short Description

This tile panel is assumed to have been produced at Iznik for the Mosque of Neslişah Sultan in Edirnekapı, Istanbul. The purpose of tile panels depicting the Ka'ba was to feel its presence, the most sacred shrine of Islam, during prayer at the mosque.

Original Owner:

Sultan Neslişah (d. 987 / 1579; granddaughter of Sultan Bayezid II)

How date and origin were established:

The panel was originally embedded in the wall of the Neslişah Sultan Mosque built in the late 16th century. Since such panels are not found in every mosque, and the quality of the work suggests that it was made for a structure built by an important person, it is plausible to think it was specially made for the aforementioned mosque.

How Object was obtained:

The tile was transferred to the Museum in 1914 from the mosque of Neslişah Sultan, the grandchild of Sultan Bayezid II, in the Edirnekapı section of Istanbul.

How provenance was established:

The materials, techniques and colours used are typical of an Iznik-produced tile.

Selected bibliography:

Ölçer, N. et al, Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, Istanbul, 2002, p. 282.

Citation of this web page:

Cihat Soyhan "Ceramic tile with a picture of the Ka‘ba" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2020.;ISL;tr;Mus01;33;en

Prepared by: Cihat Soyhan
Translation by: Barry Wood, İnci Türkoğlu
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: TR 60