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, 2021.;ISL;tr;Mus01;41;en

Prepared by: Gönül Tekeli
Translation by: Barry Wood, İnci Türkoğlu
Translation copyedited by: Mandi Gomez

MWNF Working Number: TR 70