Name of Object:

Planispheric astrolabe


Fez, Morocco

Holding Museum:

Batha Museum

Date of Object:

Hegira 614 / AD 1217–18

Artist(s) / Craftsperson(s):

Muhammad ibn al-Futuh al-Khamayri.

Museum Inventory Number:


Material(s) / Technique(s):

Engraved brass.


Height 22.5 cm, diameter 21 cm

Period / Dynasty:



Andalusian Mosque, Fez.


The maker and final destination of this flat astrolabe, which is in reasonably good condition, are both known. All of the elements that make up a planispheric astrolabe have survived: the main part or mater; the alidade on the back of the instrument; three tympans or superposed disks on top of the mater; the rete or mobile openwork plaque (shabaka) representing the map of fixed stars turning around the earth; and the throne, a triangular piece for hanging it. It would have been one of the first portable astrolabes to have been made in the West on the model of the well known al-Zarqali astrolabe from Toledo, known in Europe as the Azarchel. The name of the maker is engraved on the back of the throne, and is none other than the famous Seville craftsman Muhammad ibn al-Futuh al-Khamayri, from whom four further astrolabes are known. An inscription in cursive characters on the back of the mater names the mosque to which it is dedicated: the Andalusian Mosque in Fez.
An essential scientific instrument used by ancient astronomers to determine prayer times, the position of stars and horoscopes, this astrolabe was also an especially well-crafted work of art, in particular in the cutting of the flashes in the rete.

View Short Description

This astrolabe includes all of the component parts of the planispheric astrolabes that were indispensable to ancient astronomers for determining prayer times and the height of the stars, and for establishing horoscopes. It is one of the first portable astrolabes in the West.

Original Owner:

Habus (endowment)

How date and origin were established:

The inscription engraved on the suspension plate names the craftsman and the date it was made: 'This was made by Muhammad ibn al-Fatuh al-Khamayri in the year 614 [AD 1218]'. The numbers are written in letters according to the Abajid style.

How Object was obtained:


How provenance was established:

The inscription on the back of the astrolabe: 'This was made habus property to deserve the blessing and forgiveness of God the Supreme for the minbar of the Andalusian Mosque in the town of Fez, may God the Supreme protect it'. There were actually two minbars at the Andalusian Mosque, one commissioned in 369 / 980 and the other built under the Almohads.

Selected bibliography:

Amahan, A., 6000 ans d'art au Maroc, catalogue, Paris, 1990.
Bergé, M., Les Arabes, Histoire et Civilisation, des origines à la chute du Royaume de Grenade, Paris, 1978.
Michel, H., Traité de l'astrolabe, Paris, 1947.
Renaud, P.J., “Astronomie et Astrologie marocaines”, Hespéris XXIX, Rabat, 1942, pp.42–63.

Citation of this web page:

Naima El Khatib-Boujibar "Planispheric astrolabe" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2021.;ISL;ma;Mus01_C;13;en

Prepared by: Naima El Khatib-BoujibarNaima El Khatib-Boujibar

Archéologue et historienne de l'art, titulaire d'une licence en lettres (française), N. Elkhatib-Boujibar a également étudié l'archéologie et l'histoire de l'art à l'Institut d'art et d'archéologie de Paris, l'art islamique et la muséologie à l'École du Louvre (Paris), et suivi des cours à l'Institut d'ethnographie de l'Université de Neuchâtel (Suisse). Elle a occupé plusieurs postes de responsabilité, parmi lesquels directrice des Musées et de l'Archéologie, inspectrice générale des Musées et de l'Archéologie, déléguée régionale du ministère de la Culture.
Elle a dirigé un chantier de fouille durant 20 ans et enseigné à l'Institut national marocain des sciences de l'archéologie et du patrimoine (INSAP). Elle a organisé différentes expositions sur le patrimoine marocain, au Maroc comme à l'étranger, et animé des cycles de conférence, dont celui sur l'art islamique à la “Villa des Arts” à Casablanca.
N. El Khatib-Boujibar a publié différents articles sur le patrimoine archéologique, artistique et architectural marocain, mais aussi sur d'autres sites islamiques et sur les arts mobiliers. Elle a également participé à la rédaction du catalogue Musée Sans Frontières Le Maroc andalou, à la rencontre d'un art de vivre.

Copyedited by: Margot Cortez
Translation by: Laurence Nunny
Translation copyedited by: Monica Allen

MWNF Working Number: MO 15


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