Name of Object:

Astronomical instrument: Qiblanuma


Sultanahmet, Istanbul, Turkey

Holding Museum:

Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts

About Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Sultanahmet

Date of Object:

Hegira 1151 / AD 1738

Artist(s) / Craftsperson(s):

Barun al-Muhtari.

Museum Inventory Number:

157 A-B

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Lacquered (Edirnekari technique) on wood.


Diameter 31 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Istanbul, Turkey.


The qiblanuma is a portable astronomical instrument whose name literally means 'showing the direction to the Ka'ba'. The wooden instrument is round, with a lid, and is decorated with lacquering, a technique known as Edirnekari, in red, pink, black, blue, green, and gilding. The main body includes the compass and pointer. The regions where the instrument can be used are shown on a map and a list of cities is given with their Arabic names.

The upper part of the inside lid shows, on a green background, the minarets of the Masjid al-Haram in Mecca, with the Ka'ba in the courtyard. To the left of this are depictions of the sacred sites at the Plain of 'Arafat. To the right and in the foreground are date palms and olive trees, symbols of paradise and blessing. The empty space in the background is filled with illustrations of pomegranates in a bowl, representing plenty. A cartouche framed with leaf motifs extending from among the pomegranates, is decorated with a bouquet of roses on a gold background. The rose bouquet, symbolic of the Prophet Muhammad, was a popular motif in 18th-century Ottoman literature and floral paintings. Fruits in a bowl, symbolising fertility, abundance and immortality, were a typical motif of the period. The inscription in the lower part of the inside lid states that the instrument was made by Barun al-Muhtari in Istanbul in AH 1151 / AD 1738. It also includes instructions on how to use the instrument.

The outside of the lid is decorated in the naturalistic style known as Turkish Baroque-Rococo on a gold background. It features vases filled with roses and flowers surrounded by garlands of acanthus leaves and scrolling tendrils. Six oval medallions placed in this composition feature figureless landscape depictions, which are also found on wall paintings of the same period. The landscape depictions include views of lakes, houses amid trees on the shore, mansions, and villages on the opposite shore, all drawn with the illusion of depth.

View Short Description

Qiblanumas are portable astronomical instruments that show the direction to the Ka'ba in Mecca, which Muslims face to pray. They remained in use until the late AH 13th / AD 19th century and this example produced in Istanbul was decorated with a lacquering technique known as Edirnekari.

How date and origin were established:

The date 1151 (1738–9) is given on the inside of the lid.

How Object was obtained:

The instrument was transferred to the museum in 1951 from the Hisar Mosque in Izmir, .

How provenance was established:

The inscription inside the lid gives the place of production as Istanbul.

Selected bibliography:

Ölçer, N. et al, In Pursuit of Excellence: The Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts, Istanbul, 1993, p.88.

Ölçer, N. et al, Museum of Turkish and Islamic Art, Istanbul, 2002, pp.290–91.

Citation of this web page:

Gönül Tekeli "Astronomical instrument: Qiblanuma" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2024.;ISL;tr;Mus01;41;en

Prepared by: Gönül Tekeli
Translation by: Barry WoodBarry Wood

Barry Wood is Curator (Islamic Gallery Project) in the Asian Department of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. He studied history of art at Johns Hopkins University and history of Islamic art and architecture at Harvard University, from where he obtained his Ph.D. in 2002. He has taught at Harvard, Eastern Mediterranean University, the School of Oriental and African Studies, and the Courtauld Institute of Art. He has also worked at the Harvard University Art Museums and the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. He has published on topics ranging from Persian manuscripts to the history of exhibitions.
, İnci Türkoğluİnci Türkoğlu

İnci Türkoğlu has been working as a tourist guide and freelance consultant in tourism and publishing since 1993. She was born in Alaşehir, Turkey, in 1967. She graduated from the English Department of Bornova Anatolian High School in 1985 and lived in the USA for a year as an exchange student. She graduated from the Department of Electronic Engineering of the Faculty of Architecture and Engineering, Dokuz Eylül University, Izmir, and the professional tourist guide courses of the Ministry of Tourism in 1991. She worked as an engineer for a while. She graduated from the Department of Art History, Faculty of Letters, Ege University, Izmir, in 1997 with an undergraduate thesis entitled “Byzantine House Architecture in Western Anatolia”. She completed her Master's at the Byzantine Art branch of the same department in 2001 with a thesis entitled “Synagogue Architecture in Turkey from Antiquity to the Present”. She has published on art history and tourism.

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: TR 70


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