Today was a once-in-a-lifetime treat! Our study group was allowed to enter and photograph the third most holy place to Muslims, the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mound in the Old City of Jerusalem. Our group leader, Dr. Barbara Boehm, is the senior curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art responsible for an exhibit on Jerusalem. She researched for 6 years to assemble the collection and information necessary. During that time, she became good friends with Dr. Mustafa Abu Sway, the top Muslim scholar at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. Yesterday, he came to speak with us. And today, he served as our tour guide. Typically non-Muslims are not allowed to enter the mosque, so we were thrilled with this honor.
Dome of the Rock
We approached the Old City from the east and entered through the Lion’s Gate, bypassing security checkpoints. This gate is reserved for dignitaries and VIPs.
I was required to follow a modest dress code-long skirt, long sleeves, and a head scarf. We were also not allowed to touch each other with on the Al-Aqsa space. This is the first glimpse of the dome.
The interior is stunning!!! It is an octagonal building with red, green, and while marble columns.
The dome is equally inspiring with gold and red hues. ~ There are actually two domes, the interior and exterior dome, with a small space between them.
When it is time to pray, the imam leads from the niche which faces Mecca. The carpet is designed with space for each man to pray. Women are not allowed to pray inside. ~ Mosaic stained glass windows surround the top of the octagonal walls, allowing light in, but keeping the heat out.
The mosaics on the arches and ceiling are predominately green and gold representing God’s creation.
Beneath the dome is the rock. It is the top of the mountain and simply sticks out above the floor level. ~ To the left is the mirbar, where the imam offers a short talk before Friday prayers.
The exterior mosaics are predominately blue and gold. Truly breathtaking under the Jerusalem sky!