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 meters west of the Dome of
the Rock. Built by the Mamluks in the fifteenth century, 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 Mamluk sultan al-Ashraf Sayf
ad-Din Enal. In 1482, however, Sultan Qaitbay had it rebuilt, and the structure is named after him.
The labor 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 meters high, consisting of a base, a transition zone and its
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.
Water access -
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.