Jami' al-Kabir Complex
Jibla, Yemen
Situated between two rivers in the lush valley of the southern Yemeni highlands, Dhu Jiblah was first settled by the Sulayhids in 1066. Shortly thereafter in 1088, Queen Arwa bint Ahmed Al-Sulaihi ordered the capital to be moved here from Sana'a, where she proceeded to rule the dynasty until 1138. Commissioning a wide range of architectural and urban projects, including her palace, mosques, bathhouses, bridges and other infrastructure, the queen is remembered for her great contributions to the cultural landscape of the city. The Jami' Mosque, also known as the Queen's mosque, dates to this period and her tomb is located at its northwest corner. She was allegedly buried here upon her death.

The Jami' Mosque of Dhu Jiblah was constructed on steep hillside terrain. With the triangular crenellation capping its volcanic masonry walls, its domed entrance and its two rising minarets, it is a noticeable visual landmark. The mosque is organized around a courtyard, which includes ablution areas and cisterns. The court opens to a covered area that features an arcade of quasi-cylindrical columns surmounted by square capitals. While this is a characteristic reminiscent of Persia in pre-Islamic years, with their thin bases, the columns recall pre-Islamic Southern Arabian forms. Inside, octagonal columns with engraved capitals support the roof. The carved stucco ornamentation and the use of keel-shaped arches on the mihrab is similar to that of Queen Arwa's tomb indicating that they were built at the same period and possibly by the same architect. Since keel-shaped arches first appear in Egyptian architecture around 1125, it has been posited that the mihrab and the tomb might date to the final years of Queen Arwa's rule. However, as her political alliance with Egypt terminated in 1130 the influence of the arch might have initiated from Persia, arriving in Egypt through Yemen. Queen Arwa's tomb also features a kufic inscription with a nashki one carved above it at a later date. The mosque also served as a center of learning and it provided accommodations and classrooms for its student population.


Croken, Barbara. "Jiblah." In Development and Urban Metamorphosis Volume 2: Background Papers, edited by Ahmet Evin, 27. Singapore: Concept Media/The Aga Khan Award for Architecture, 1984.

Hämäläinen, Pertti, and Françoise Fauchet. Yémen: guide de voyage, 148-149. Paris: Lonely planet publications, 1988.

Williams, John A.. Early Islamic Architecture of the Yemen: the early Islamic period, 10-12. Santa Barbara: Visual Education, Inc., 1977.
Jibla, Yemen
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Associated Names
1088-1089/480 AH
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Variant Names
Great Mosque Complex
Jami' al Kabir Complex
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