The Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque

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The Haram as-Sherif (the Noble Sanctuary) - the Temple Mount to Jews-, is the third holiest site in Islam, after Mecca and Medina. It is a complex of religious buildings that hosts two of the most famous Islamic sites in Jerusalem: The Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Crowned with its golden dome, the Dome of the Rock is an impressive and beautiful edifice that can be seen from all over Jerusalem. It is not a mosque but a Muslim shrine, built over a sacred stone. The stone is believed to be the place from which Prophet Muhammad ascended into heaven during his Night Journey to Heaven. The gold dome stretches 20 meters across the Noble Rock, rising to an apex more than 35 meters above it. The Quranic verse 'Ya Sin' is inscribed across the top in the dazzling tile work commissioned in the 16th century by Suleiman the Magnificent. The sacred rock over which the Dome of the Rock is built was considered holy before the arrival of Islam. Jews believed, and still believe, the rock to be the very place where Abraham prepared to sacrifice Isaac (an event which Muslims place in Mecca). In addition, the Dome of the Rock is believed by many to stand directly over the site of the Holy of Holies of both Solomon's Temple and Herod's Temple.

The Dome of the Rock was built by the Umayyad caliph Abd al-Malik from 688 to 691 AD. Few decades later, in 710 AD, the first Al-Aqsa Mosque was constructed of wood. The structure has been rebuilt at least five times; it was entirely destroyed at least once by earthquakes. The form of the present structure has remained essentially the same since it was reconstructed by the Caliph Al-Dhahir in 1033 AD.

Al-Aqsa Mosque became a centre of worship and learning, attracting professors from all over the world. In reality the whole area of the Noble Sanctuary is considered Al-Aqsa Mosque, the entire precincts inviolable according to Islamic law. Every Friday prayer, the Al-Aqsa Mosque building overflows, with thousands of worshippers who must make their prayers outside in the courtyards of the vast open expanse of the Noble Sanctuary.