The mrzḥ of Qaryat al‑Fāw

The frescoes and their Egyptian connections


  • Juan De Lara Oxford University


Qaryat al-Faw, Hellenism, frescoes, mural painting, Arabia, marzēaḥ, pre-Islamic Arabia, Egyptian art, caravan trade, maritime trade, mrzḥ, Qaryat al‑Fāw


Newly accessed documentation from the 1970s–1980s excavations at Qaryat al‑Fāw, undertaken by al‑Anṣārī and his team reveal that what was originally known as the palace area of the city was, in fact, a temple of Shams. This temple may have also housed multiple other cults, including Sīn and ʿAthtar. The significance of this discovery is also marked by the presence of a space for funerary banqueting rituals, known in Semitic languages as mrzḥ, as confirmed by at least three inscriptions. The walls of the northern mrzḥ were found to have been decorated with figurative frescoes and Ancient South Arabian inscriptions. This article delves into a comprehensive documentation of the wall-painting fragments, featuring detailed photographs and reconstructions. Additionally, it conducts a stylistic analysis of the painted scenes and contextualises them within the cults associated with the mrzḥ. This analysis reveals that the murals’ motifs and iconography bear strong links to Egyptian panel and mural painting from the first century BC to the fourth century AD, particularly the Karanis style. The hypothesis presented in this study suggests that itinerant artists, possibly with knowledge of Egyptian painting techniques, or even Egyptian artists themselves, were responsible for creating these frescoes. This argument is substantiated by an examination of the historical evidence of trade relations between Arabia and Egypt at the time.


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How to Cite

De Lara, J. (2024). The mrzḥ of Qaryat al‑Fāw: The frescoes and their Egyptian connections. Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 53, 52–78. Retrieved from

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