About Dome of the Rock
The Dome of the Rock, known in Arabic as Qubbat as-Sakhrah, in Jerusalem is one of the world’s most famous holy sites. Not only is its iconic golden dome an integral part of the Jerusalem landscape, but the Dome of the Rock and its location are of great significance to Muslims and Jews.
History of the Dome of the Rock
The building of the Dome of Rock is considered the oldest existing Islamic structure, having been completed in 691 during the Umayyad Dynasty. The site chosen for its construction is believed by Muslims to have been that of the Prophet Muhammad’s ascent to heaven. Whilst piety was certainly a factor in the building’s construction, so too was politics. The Dome of the Rock was a statement of intent to Christians and Jews, showing Islam’s power and sophistication and making an implicit case for its superiority as a result.
The original building was not so different from the one visible today, covered with mosaics, verses from the Quran and a lavish solid gold dome. The Dome of the Rock briefly fell into Christian hands, when it was repurposed as a church by the Crusaders, before being returned to Islam by Saladin.
The modern day tiles were added in the 16th century by Suleiman the Magnificent originally, but were replaced in the 20th century as part of a major restoration problem. Likewise, the solid gold dome is no more, replaced instead by 80kg of gold plates donated by the King of Jordan, costing somewhere in the region of $8.2 million. Despite these modern day additions, the building looks remarkably similar today to the one conceived in the 7th century.
The rock, which the building is named after, is a site of immense religious significance. Jews call it the Foundation Stone, where Abraham planned to sacrifice Isaac. Islam dictates that this was the spot where the Prophet ascended to heaven, and the rock is said to have two footprints on, one belonging to the Prophet and another to the angel Gabriel.
The Dome of the Rock today
The Dome of the Rock is at the heart of religious and political tensions in Jerusalem. It’s not unusual for the whole complex to be closed during periods of unrest, and only Muslims are permitted to enter the Dome itself – modestly attired non-believers can walk around the complex to appreciate the beauty of the building, but be warned, the guards are strict about clothing so really make sure no flesh is showing, particularly if you’re a woman. Security is tight – expect to have your bag searched before even entering the complex.
Technically the Dome of the Rock is not a mosque but rather a shrine, and due reverence is expected inside. The interior is said to be just as lavish by those who are permitted to enter. If you do visit inside, look out for the oldest known mihrab in the Islamic world, and the steps down to the Well of Souls, where suppposedly the voices of the dead can be heard as they pass onto eternity. .
Getting to the Dome of the Rock
The Dome of the Rock is located in the heart of Jerusalem’s Old Town: the nearest entrance is the Dung Gate if you’re driving, and there’s normally parking to be found near Gethsemane. Buses stop on Ma’ale HaShalom St outside.
An country with a diverse religious, cultural, and political history, Israel is home to a number of striking sites which are essential for any visitor wanting to understand the rich history of the area. Here's our pick of 10 which you shouldn't miss.