As the third most important site is Islam (after Mecca and Medina), the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem definitely comes to mind when a lot of people think of Jerusalem. The entrance is in the Western Wall Plaza, but on a little wooden tunnel thing (apparently, the regal arch that is supposed to take you up to Temple Mount is under renovation).
The complex itself surprised me, especially in how big it was. I assumed it was just the Dome of the Rock, but it was an entire complex that also housed a mosque and a large green area. Golden minarets shaded Muslim families sharing an early lunch on the Mount, while other very conservatively dressed people recited the Koran.
I wasn’t allowed in the Dome itself (you have to be able to prove your Muslim; a passport and being able to recite some of the central prayers in the Koran is proof enough), but standing next to it on the Mount was still really awesome.
Interestingly, the dress code is STRONGLY enforced. Upon entering in the plaza, a man warms people that look susceptible of breaking the dress code. A girl in our group, even though she had her head covered, a long skirt, and a shawl on, too much of her arms were showing. He barked at her, “Cover your arms of leave! Get out of here! Get out of here!” and then radioed in to perhaps another dress code lookout. Not fun, especially since it was about 85˚. It’s like high school all over again, though a tad more holy. Intense.
- The Western Wall on the rickety path up to Temple Mount, which sits above.
- Jews leave messages for HaShem in the cracks of the Wall, the remnant of the Second Temple that was constructed in 516 BC.
- Riot gear on the way to Temple Mount. Hmm…
- Me in front of the Dome of the Rock.
- The fountain where Muhammad cleansed before he ascended to heaven. The tunnels were connected to Bethlehem, but are not connected to the Jerusalem water grid. Modern Muslims bathe there (when there isn’t a drought…) before praying in the Dome.
- Side view of the Dome of the Rock.
- Us in front of the Dome, taken by a frazzled Italian woman.
- Dress code enforcer!
- Many Jordanian dignitaries are buried on the Mount, probably put in place there before Israel captured East Jerusalem in 1967.
- Camel rides – 30 shekel (9$ USD)! Right outside the Old City near the Dung Gate (closest entrance to the Wall and the Dome).