Haram Al-Sharif (Temple Mount), Jerusalem
Before the Muslims took over Jerusalem was held by Christians. In the fourth century Constantine the Great built churches over the Holy Sepulcher and on the Mount of Olives, and in the sixth century Justinian dedicated a church to the Mother of God. Justinian's church had a roof structure of large cedar beams; according to Procopius (De Aedificiis, V,6) it stood on the Temple platform.
Address: Temple Mount, Entrance near Western Wall, Israel
Opening hours: 8am-11:30am; Closed: Sun, Fri
Useful tips: Tickets for all objects is 6 USD.
The El-Aqsa Mosque (Masjid el-Aqsa) in Jeruslaem and its subsidiary buildings, the Museum of Islamic Art by the Moroccans' Gate and the prayer halls for women, occupy most of the south side of the Haram esh-Sherif. Its prayer niche (mihrab) faces south, in the direction of Mecca. The mosque was built by the Omayyad Caliph El-Walid I (705-715) on the site of Justinian's basilica dedicated to the Mother of God. The Crusaders took it for Solomon's Temple, and the Jews call it Solomon's School (Midrash Shelomo). It has been several times restored and renovated, most recently between 1938 and 1943, when columns of white Carrara marble supplied by Mussolini were installed and a new ceiling was built at the expense of King Farouk of Egypt.The mosque (excluding the subsidiary buildings) is 80m/260ft long by 55m/180ft wide. In 1967 it was damaged by gunfire and in 1969 by fire, but has since been restored.The interior with its seven aisles is impressive. The 12th century carved wooden pulpit, which was badly damaged in the 1969 fire (since restored), was a gift from Saladin, who also presented the beautiful mosaic on a gold ground in the drum supporting the dome. The mihrab (prayer niche) with its graceful marble colonnettes dates from the same period. Built on to the west side of the transept is the White Mosque (the women's mosque), which dates from the time of the Templars.
North of El-Aqsa in Jerusalem, we pass the large circular ablutions fountain (El-Kas) and climb a broad flight of steps leading to the upper platform.
The steps at the Ablutions fountain in Jerusalem, like those on the other sides of the platform, are spanned by handsome pointed arches of the Mameluke period. They are known to Muslims as the "Scales", since it is believed that on the day of judgment the scales in which the souls of men will be weighed will be set up here. At the top of the steps, on left, is a marble summer pulpit constructed during the Mameluke period, using colonnettes from a Crusader building.
The Dome of the Rock is one of the most famous Muslim monuments. Muslim belief states that Mohammed ascended to heaven from this spot, while the Jewish belief suggests it is where Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac.
Other buildings round the Dome of the Rock
At the northwest corner of the raised platform on which the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem stands are a number of monuments: the Prayer Niche of the Prophet (Mihrab el-Nebi, 1538); the Dome of Hebron (Qubbet el-Khalil), a prayer hall built by the Sheikh of Hebron in the 19th century; and the Dome of the Ascension of the Prophet (Qubbet el-Miraj), built on the spot where, in Muslim tradition, Mohammed prayed before his ascent to heaven. In front of the arcading of the staircase at the northwest corner are the Dome of St George (Qubbet el-Khadir) and the Dome of the Spirits (Qubbet el-Arwah), which dates from the 15th century. The El-Kas fountain on the west side of the Dome of the Rock, below the broad flight of steps, was erected by the Mameluke Sultan Qaitbay in 1455.
Dome of the Chain
Immediately east of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem is a small circular domed building known as David's Place of Judgment (Mehkemet Da'ud) or the Dome of the Chain (Qubbet es-Silsileh): so called because Solomon is said to have hung a chain over his father's place of judgment, from which a link would fall if any man appearing for judgment swore a false oath. The large mihrab (prayer niche) marking the direction of Mecca dates from the 13th century.
In the east wall of the Temple precinct in Jerusalem is the Golden Gate, a double gateway built in the seventh century on the site of the Herodian Susa Gate. The Arabs call the southern entrance the Gate of Mercy (Bab el-Rameh), the northern one the Gate of Repentance (Bab el-Tobeh), reflecting the Jewish and Muslim belief that the Last Judgment would be held in the Kidron valley and on the Mount of Olives. The Jews believed that the Messiah would enter the city here; and accordingly - and undoubtedly also with strategic considerations in mind - the Arabs walled up both gateways and for good measure laid out a cemetery outside the gate.
At the southeast corner of the sacred precinct is a flight of steps leading down to "Solomon's Stables" (usually closed), the substructures built by Herod to enlarge the Temple platform. Here 88 massive piers linked by arches form twelve parallel passages, which, as can be seen from the rings for tethering animals on many of the piers, were used by the Crusaders for stabling their horses.