Name of Object:

Ablutions basin


Marrakesh, Morocco

Holding Museum:

Dar Si Saïd Museum

Date of Object:

Hegira 381–98 / AD 991–1008 (when 'Abd al-Malik served as hajib)

Material(s) / Technique(s):

Sculpted white marble.


Height 70 cm, length 155 cm, width 82 cm, depth 50 cm, thickness of sides 10 cm, thickness of base 20 cm

Period / Dynasty:

Umayyad Caliphate of Córdoba; reign of Hisham II (AH 366–99 / AD976–1009)

Workshop / Movement:

Madinat al-Zahira workshop, Córdoba.




This parallelepipedic tank marked with plain striations on the inside, the short sides and the corners, was beautifully adorned on the outside, and almost all of the decoration has survived on two sides. The design on the decorated face, whose inscription has been destroyed, is divided into two styles. The first one, rising from the base, consists of a large frieze of grooved foliage, dotted with buds and rosettes and wide-veined plain palms with calyxes, and double ones with acanthus leaves and buds. The second comprises a strip in relief with two lines of grooved intersecting knotwork, one curved and the other straight, bearing fleurons and veined palms. It is framed by an edge, set back, formed by vegetal knotwork accentuated with small stylised palm leaves in the shape of six-pointed stars.
The short side is occupied by two identical animal scenes, sculpted on two vertical panels separated by an empty space. On each panel, there is an eagle spreading its tail, carrying two quadrupeds on its wings and two gazelles from its claws. Two winged ibex confronting each other on either side of a fleuron finish the scene in the lower part.
Most of the ornamentation on the other two sides has been destroyed, leaving only the text in kufic characters sculpted in relief on the rim and the decoration of the framing ribbon on the large side, which consists of a frieze of aquatic birds and fish alternating on a plant background.
The surviving elements of the inscription that crowned the entire rim of the tank include the last digit of the hegira date (300), and the name of the patron, 'Abd al-Malik, hajib (chamberlain) of Hisham II.
The design and animal scenes of this beautiful example of Caliphate artwork are reminiscent of the tank at al-Mansur and would appear to be from the same Madinat al-Zahira marble workshop in Córdoba.

View Short Description

This basin is the work of a marble workshop in Madinat al-Zahira, Córdoba, the princely city built by al-Mansur. It was brought to Marrakesh by 'Ali ibn Yusuf and placed in the ablutions room of the Great Mosque.

How date and origin were established:

1. The inscription, partially destroyed, sculpted on the upper rim of the tank reads '(the year) three hundred, in the name of God! God's blessing. Victory and divine assistance to the Hajib [followed with his honours] Abu Marwan 'Abd al-Malik ibn Amir (…), this is part of what he commissioned (…)'.
2. We know that 'Abd al-Malik was appointed hajib of Hisham II between 381 and 398 / 991 and 1008) by his father al-Mansur.

How Object was obtained:

As state property from a historical monument.

How provenance was established:

Although it was discovered in the Ibn Yusuf Madrasa in Marrakesh, which belongs to the Sa'did period (10th / 16th century), the name of the patron and the comparative study with the al-Mansur basin in the National Archaeological Museum in Madrid suggest that it was originally from Madinat al-Zahira in Córdoba.

Selected bibliography:

Deverdun, G., Marrakech des origines à 1912, Rabat, 1959.
Deverdun, G., Inscriptions arabes de Marrakech, Rabat, 1956.
Galloti, J., “Sur une cuve de marbre datant du Khalifat de Cordoue”, Hespéris, III, fasc. 3, Rabat, 1923, pp.363–91.
Lévy-Provençal, É., Histoire de l'Espagne musulmane, Vol. III, Paris, 1953.
Pigeon, G., Manuel d'art musulman, Vol. I, Paris, 1927.

Citation of this web page:

Naima El Khatib-Boujibar "Ablutions basin" in Discover Islamic Art, Museum With No Frontiers, 2022.;ISL;ma;Mus01_D;5;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 07


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