The Dome of the Rock,
which is a shrine, but not a mosque, is an ornate, octagonal monument built in the late 7th century after a Muslim
army, led by Caliph Omar had conquered Jerusalem. The upper half of the
outside walls of the Dome of the Rock are composed of colorful glazed porcelain tiles (added by Suleiman
the Magnificent in the 16th Century) that have been recently repaired. The
inscriptions on the tiles are rendered in Arabic calligraphy and a
translation can be found
Perhaps the most the stunning architectural feature of this monument is its massive, dome covered with thousands of
plates. The restoration project that accomplished this work was
financed by the late King Hussein of Jordan, from his personal finances.
At the heart of the Dome of the Rock is a stone that is believed to be
the Foundation Stone, long considered the location of the Holy of Holies in
the First and Second Temple and one of the most sacred spots on earth to
members of the Jewish religion.
This same rock is believed by Muslims to be where the Prophet Mohammed,
accompanied by the Angel Gabriel, once ascended
through the seven Heavens on a visit to Allah. During his Night
Journey The Prophet was carried to Jerusalem by his winged-horse Al-Buraq
The Dome of the Rock focuses one on the Sacred Rock, which is the centerpiece of the shrine. Stairways provide differing views
and access levels to the Sacred Rock, which has a polished look,
presumably from the millions of hand that have touched it over the
centuries. In particular, one indentation in the Sacred Rock is
regarded as the spot where Mohammed leapt onto the ladder as he ascended
towards his meeting with Allah.
The Dome of the Rock is a sacred place. Appropriate dress and demeanor are
required for entrance. Leave your shoes at the entrance. (Yes, they
will be safe.)
Al' Aqsa Mosque, the second oldest mosque in Islam, was originally constructed in the early 8th century
and has been rebuilt on several occasions, with the current structure dating
back, in part, to the 11th century. After the conquest of Jerusalem by
the Crusaders, the Mosque served as the Palace of Baldwin I
(Crusader and King of Jerusalem), but the complex was returned to its use as a mosque
shortly after the Crusades ended in defeat.
Before that happened, however, Baldwin moved into a palace and the Knights
Templar took over the building and used the nearby, underground Stables of Solomon to store their horses of gear.
Historical notes indicate that the Templars seemed unduly interested in this area, a notion which started rumors of
Templar excavations under the ancient city and the
discovery of the vast treasures that that were secretly shipped
to their order houses in Europe.
The Stables of Solomon are called Musalla Marwan by the Muslims.
The area was originally excavated to level the Noble Sanctuary and to provide an overflow area for the
crowds worshiping at the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
There is a Museum of Islam here (it is the oldest museum in Jerusalem) that has an important
collection of Islamic art including ceramics, a Koran collection, various weapons and a section devoted to the history of the
The Noble Sanctuary is under the administration of the Palestinian led Islamic
Waqf Trust (a wafq is a holding of property or an endowment
with religious purpose), although an agreement dating from the end of the
Six-Day War allows Israeli security forces the right to patrol
this area if required. As you might imagine, this concession is a
source of constant friction between the two parties.
Next - explore outside the Old City in the
Mount of Olives and Kidron
Or - take a look at the index to the
ThereArePlaces Guide to Jerusalem that can be found on the upper
right-hand edge of this page.
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If you need information about another travel destination, try
Destination Guide Index
or Googling ThereArePlaces.