A salasabil (currently dry) in the Red Fort in Delhi, India.

A salsabil (or salasabil[1]), also known as a shadirwan,[2] is a type of fountain which maximizes the surface area of the water. It is used for evaporative cooling of buildings, cooling and aeration of drinking water, and ornament[3][4] (it has also been used to prevent eavesdropping[5]). The water may flow in a thin sheet or thin streams, often over a wavy surface with many little waterfalls.[4][3] Its use extends from southern Spain through north Africa and the Middle East to northern India.[3]

Etymology and name

The name salsabil likely derives from a Qur'anic reference.[6] The term shadirwan is also used for devices for aerating drinking water.[7][2] However, the term shadirwan or shadirvan has slightly different uses in other cultures, such as designating a central ablutions fountain for a mosque courtyard in Turkish (see shadirvan).[8][9]: 459 

Design and setting

The water flows in a manner designed to maximize the surface area, and thus evaporation. A salsabil may be a near-vertical marble waterfall mounted on a wall,[4] or the sheet of water may flow down a slanted chute.[3]

Evaporative cooling causes the water and the surrounding air to cool as some of the water evaporates. Passive ventilation may be used to maximize the flow of unsaturated air over the water surface and carry the cooled air to where it is needed in the building. Salasabils are often used with windcatchers.[10]

A salsabil may also be used to aerate water for drinking in a sabil (or sebil).[11]: 63, 262  Salsabils, in the form of inclined marble slabs over which drinking water flowed before being dispensed, were often included inside the sabils of Mamluk architecture.[7][11]: 63, 262 

Salasabils were used in Mughal architecture from the 1200s to the 1600s. They were also used in recent centuries in Iran.[3] They were sometimes used as decorative features in Ottoman domestic architecture.[12][9]: 441 

See also


  1. ^ Clark, Emma (2004). The Art of the Islamic Garden. Crowood. p. 92. ISBN 9781861266095.
  2. ^ a b Rabbat, Nasser (1960–2007). Bearman, P.; Bianquis, Th.; Bosworth, C.E.; van Donzel, E.; Heinrichs, W.P. (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition. Brill. ISBN 9789004161214.
  3. ^ a b c d e Ford, Brian (September 2001). "Passive downdraught evaporative cooling: principles and practice" (PDF). Architectural Research Quarterly. 5 (3): 271–280. doi:10.1017/S1359135501001312.
  4. ^ a b c Amro, Dana K.; Bahauddin, Azizi. Analysis of the architectural elements in traditional courtyard houses in Irbid, Jordan. - Free Online Library.
  5. ^ "Splendors of Topkapi, Palace of the Ottoman Sultans". Smithsonian Magazine. February 2000. Retrieved 2009-06-02.
  6. ^ Mostafa, Saleh Lamei (1989). "The Cairene Sabil: Form and Meaning". Muqarnas. 6: 33–42. doi:10.2307/1602278. JSTOR 1602278.
  7. ^ a b Behrens-Abouseif, Doris (2007). Cairo of the Mamluks: A History of Architecture and its Culture. The American University in Cairo Press. ISBN 9789774160776.
  8. ^ Sumner-Boyd, Hilary; Freely, John (2010). Strolling Through Istanbul: The Classic Guide to the City (Revised ed.). Tauris Parke Paperbacks.
  9. ^ a b Goodwin, Godfrey (1971). A History of Ottoman Architecture. New York: Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0500274290.
  10. ^ Niktash, Amirreza; Huynh, B. Phuoc (July 2–4, 2014). Simulation and Analysis of Ventilation Flow Through a Room Caused by a Two-sided Windcatcher Using a LES Method (PDF). Proceedings of the World Congress on Engineering.
  11. ^ a b Williams, Caroline (2008). Islamic Monuments in Cairo: The Practical Guide (6th ed.). Cairo: American University in Cairo Press. ISBN 9789774162053.
  12. ^ Kuban, Doğan (2010). Ottoman Architecture. Translated by Mill, Adair. Antique Collectors' Club. ISBN 9781851496044.