The building perhaps most often presented as a symbol of the whole of Jerusalem is as great a symbol of the centuries of religious and territorial conflict that have raged within and without the city. The glittering cupola of the Dome of the Rock dominates views of the Old City and dominates the fierce debate over its future, sitting on the spot that more than one religious tradition identifies as the center of the world, the spot from which all creation sprung.
The Dome is a Muslim shrine – in fact, it is the oldest Muslim building still standing in the entire world – built at the behest of the caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan in 685 CE, not long after the Muslim Arabs had swept out of the Arabian peninsula and conquered most of what is today considered the Arab world. Islamic tradition identifies the titular rock inside at the building's center as the foundation stone for creation, and the surrounding Temple Mount as the final destination of Mohammed's magical night journey from Mecca, from whence he ascended to heaven for a private audience with Allah.
Secular scholars theorize, judging from the building's location, the dome itself (an innovation in Islamic architecture, but common in the surrounding Byzantine Christian architecture) and the Quranic sura denying the divine status of Jesus lining the building's walls, that the Dome was meant to assert Islamic supremacy over Judaism and Christianity and provide local Muslims a focal point of worship as impressive as the nearby Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
The beautiful tiles lining the exterior walls were added by Ottoman sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, and the dome was recast in its shining bronze alloy by the Jordanian government during their occupation of Jerusalem in the mid-20th century, long after its original gold had been melted down to pay debts, and covered in gold leaf. Entrance to the Temple Mount is free for tourists Sun through Thursday from 7:00 to 11:00 and from 13:30 to 14:30. There are complicated security restrictions (bring your passport) but no ticket is required. Only Moslems are permitted to enter the Dome of the Rock or Al Aqsa mosque.
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The Jerusalem Tourism Map:Print
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