Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History

Arabian Peninsula, 1400–1600 A.D.

Arabian Peninsula, including the Holy Cities of Mecca and Medina
Mamluk rule, 1260–1517
Ottoman rule, 1517–1635
Rasulid dynasty, 1228–1454
Tahirid dynasty, 1454–1517
Ottoman rule, 1517–1635


Encompasses present-day Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen

During the period from 1400 to 1600 A.D., the Arabian Peninsula witnesses fragmented rule and struggle for control over the Holy Cities of Islam. Although Mecca and Medina are initially tied to Mamluk Cairo, Ottoman power is recognized in the early sixteenth century. Annual pilgrimage as well as east-west trade continue to be essential for the region. While local traditions of art and architecture remain strong, Cairo and Istanbul are also important sources of inspiration.

  • • 1400–1454 The Rasulids in Yemen (1228–1454) continue to acknowledge the Mamluks as potential overlords. The best Mamluk craftsmen—metalworkers and glassmakers, in particular—receive commissions for works specifically intended for the Rasulid sultans, whose emblem is the five-petaled rosette. Major architectural commissions embellish the Rasulid capital Tacizz.

  • • 1454–1517 Under the Tahirids, artistic and architectural developments follow styles established by the Rasulids. A celebrated building from this period is the Madrasa cAmiriyya in Radac, commissioned by Sultan cAmir II in 1504. This madrasa, one of the largest monuments in Yemen, is recognized for its rich decoration, including carved stucco and painted ornament.

  • • 1468–1496 During the reign of Qa’itbay, the greatest of later Mamluk sultans, the shrines of Mecca and Medina are extensively restored.

  • • 1517–1635 Following the Ottoman conquest of Syria and Egypt and the overthrow of the Mamluk sultanate, the sharif of Mecca accepts Ottoman suzerainty. As the protectors of the Holy Cities of Islam, the Ottomans organize the yearly pilgrimage and ensure the security of pilgrims. In architecture, the Ottoman imperial style established in Istanbul begins to appear in the monuments of the region.

  • • 1520–1566 During the reign of Sultan Süleyman, popularly known as "the Magnificent" or "the Lawmaker," the major shrines in Mecca and Medina are restored and expanded, with significant developments around the Kacba.

  • • ca. 1550 Coffee, a new commodity in international trade, contributes to the economy of the Arabian Peninsula, especially of Yemen. The prosperity is reflected in the arts of the period.