Fountain of Qayt Bay
Fountain of Qayt Bay or Sabil Qaitbay is a domed public fountain (sabil) located on the western esplanade of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem's Old City, situated fifty metres west of the Dome of the Rock. Built in the fifteenth century by the Egyptians, it was completed in the reign of Qaitbay, Sultan of Egypt, after whom it is named. It has been called "the most beautiful edifice in the Temple Mount" after the Dome of the Rock.
The fountain was originally constructed in 1455 on the orders of the Egyptian Sultan al-Ashraf Sayf ad-Din Enal. In 1482, however, Sultan Qaitbay had it rebuilt, and the structure is named after him. The labour of erecting the building was done by Egyptian, and Circassian craftsmen under the supervision of a renowned Christian architect. The fountain was constructed in a style mostly seen in Egypt. In 1883, the Ottoman sultan Abdul Hamid II restored the fountain and constructed some additions to it.
Placed on a raised prayer platform, together with a freestanding mihrab, the Fountain of Qayt Bay is a three-tiered structure over 13 metres high, consisting of a base, a transition zone and its dome.
The tallest part of the fountain is the base, which is a simple square room built in an ablaq construction method of blending red and cream stones, with wide grilled windows and a small entrance. The windows are located on three sides of the building, and there are four steps leading up to the windows on the northern and the western sides, as well as a large stone bench beneath the southern window. On the eastern wall of the fountain, four semi-circular steps lead up to the entrance door.
The complex zone of transition steps in several stages from the square base to the round and high drum that merges into the dome itself. At its peak, the building is crowned by a pointed dome decorated with low-relief arabesque stone carvings. The dome is crowned by a bronze crescent, which, unlike other crescents in the sanctuary, faces east and west. It is the only significant dome of its kind that exists outside Cairo.
On all four sides of the fountain are ornate inscriptions containing Qur'anic verses, details of the original Mamluk building and the 1883 renovation of the structure. Mamluk-era star-pattern strap work details the building interior, but the external lintels are from the Ottoman era of rule in Palestine. The 1883 renovation largely kept Qaitbay's structure mostly intact.
Beneath the building is the large underground reservoir. Water used to pour from the shaft near the door of the fountain into troughs below each window. The troughs were cups chained to a bronze ring fitted into the two holes of each window. Before the establishment of the British Mandate in Palestine, most fountains in the Temple Mount were supplied with water from the main channel from Solomon's Pools at the Chain Gate. During the British Mandate period, the fountain became more dependent on rainwater and springs. At this time water was collected in the reservoir beneath the building and then pulled up to the fountain itself.
- Sultan Qaytbay Sabil Archnet Digital Library.
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