If you don’t know the story behind it, you might wonder why people are taking so many pictures of an ornamental elephant. But when you learn it’s a replica of the famous water-clock invention by Muslim polymath Al Jazari and was crafted to the exact specifications of the 13th-century manuscript, you’ll join the snap-happy crowd. An Asian elephant, a Chinese serpent and an Egyptian phoenix represent cultural fusion in this horological masterpiece. It’s worth a stop when visiting Ibn Battuta Mall.
The Elephant clock is different from these, both in its elaborate form and function. The physical details of his clock represent different cultures: The elephant is an Asian elephant which represents India, the dragon-like serpent represents China, the phoenix at the top represents ancient Egypt, and the turbaned figure represents Muslim cultures. The internal mechanisms of the clock, driven by floats in water tanks hidden in the belly of the elephant, activate the various components into mechanical motion every half hour.
The 3.5 million square foot mall, in which the elephant clock can be found is named for the 14th century explorer Ibn Battuta. The mall is divided into themed sections, each taking visual inspiration from various lands visited by Battuta. The Elephant clock is located in the India Court portion.
The full-size working reproduction was commissioned for the 2005 opening of the mall, and carried out by the UK based Foundation for Science, Technology and Civilization (FSTC), who consulted on the design of the decor. The FSTC is dedicated to disseminating information about Muslim history and culture. According to mall publications, there are plans to re-create his famous Castle Clock as well.