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, 2021.;ISL;tr;Mus01;33;en

Prepared by: Cihat SoyhanCihat Soyhan

Cihat Soyhan was born in 1940. He graduated from the Department of Art History of the Faculty of Letters, Istanbul University. He lectured at the 14th Art History Courses organised for teachers of art history at Haydarpaşa High School, Istanbul, in 1976. He was the ministerial commissar at the Tekfur Palace surveys in 1976 and the Iznik excavations in 1987. He published on Turkish tile art for the exhibition on 'Islamic Arts in the 15th Century of the Hijra' in 1983 and for other occasions. He retired from his post as an expert at the Museum of Turkish and Islamic Arts in Istanbul in 2005 and passed away in early 2006.

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 60


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Calligraphy Ceramics


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