Monday, August 12, 2013

Dome of the Rock, Temple Mount and Solomon's Stables

Ramp over the Western Wall
to the Dome of the Rock.
This morning we decided to visit the Muslim Quarter and the Dome of the Rock. The Dome of the Rock is located on a larger area known as Mt. Moriah, The Temple Mount and Har Habait. The site, itself, is a sizable compound used by Muslims as a place of worship as well as more informal gatherings for family and friends.

There are two ways for the tourist to gain entry into the Dome of the Rock. One, through the Muslim Quarter, at the end of a  long narrow street -- almost a straight shot from the Jaffe Gate. The other is a long wooden and steel ramp up and over the Western Wall. We chose the ramp. As we walked along the long covered ramp, and to the right, there is an active archaeological dig underway. On the left side, the Western Wall is below. The crowd of worshipers at the Wall, on the men's and women's side, was very large.

Once inside the compound a number of tourists, all men, were asked to stand aside. We were all wearing shorts -- a mode of dress considered too "immodest" for us to enter the area.  At the end of a long portico, we were offered a scarf large enough to cover our legs. Twenty-five shekels and 5 minutes later we were on our way onto the grounds of the Dome of the Rock.

Walking around the Dome of the Rock and adjacent properties is a "quieting" experience. It is cosidered one of Islam's holiest sites.  The "rock" dates 70 C.E. and has been in continual use since then. The dome, and the building on which it sits, was constructed in 571 C.E. As we learned about this part of the Old City, we found that the site has significance to Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. It is considered one of the most "contested pieces of real estate" on the planet! Quite a reputation.

Linda and Dennis at
The Dome of the Rock.
As we wandered around the area, we found Solomon's Stables to the East of the compound.  Solomon's Stables is a huge 1500 square foot building and is purported to have built by King Herod. We were told that the earliest use of the building may have been a reservoir. Later, in the 11th Century, the Crusaders used the building as "stables". It is now used as a mosque.

The building, sitting quietly in the sun with very little shade to cool the area. We noticed quite a number of "umbrellas" that, when opened, offer shade to the visitors and worshipers. A large tented area serves the same purpose nearby.

After about an hour of exploring the Temp Mount, the Dome of the Rock and Solomon's Stables, we left the compound for a leisurely walk back through the Jewish Quarter. We found a wonderful little food market where we bought some fruit and water and sat under a tree have our snack, watching the passers-by and talking about our experiences so far.

Linda overlooking Solomon's Stables.
Our goal was to venture out and to the Jerusalem Mall. I'm told it's quite a place with hundreds of shops, cafe's and larger "box stores". On our drive-by the other day, for example, I saw an "Office Depot". When we returned to the lobby of our lodgings and discovered that a smaller mall across town was showing the new film Elysium! We decided to opt for that and took a cab to the theater. After the film, which was just "OK", we returned to the Jaffe Gate by city bus.

Tomorrow we're off on the next leg of our adventure -- that is to Masada and the Dead Sea. So, check back when you can. It'll be fun.