The Muslim Quarter

Trip Start Sep 19, 2010
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Trip End Oct 25, 2010


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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

THE MUSLIM QUARTER

A path up from the Western Wall plaza leads to the Temple Mount, or Haram es-Sharif (the Noble Enclosure in Arabic). This 40 acre plateau is dominated by two shrines, the Dome of the Rock (which is not a mosque) and the al-Aksa mosque. The shrines, built in the seventh century, made definitive the identification of Jerusalem as the "Remote Place" that is mentioned in the Koran.Israel FactThe Dome of the Rock is often incorrectly referred to as the "Mosque of Omar" after the Arab caliph Omar Ibn-Khatib who built a mosque nearby. The Dome of the Rock was built 50 years later, in 691, by the Ummayyad caliph, Abd el-Malik.Muslims remove their shoes and express their devotion to Allah inside the Dome of the Rock, which was built around the rock on which Abraham bound his son Isaacto be sacrificed before God intervened. According to some old maps and traditions, this is the center of the earth. This is also the place where the Koran saysMohammed ascended to heaven. Muslim tradition also holds that the rock tried to follow the Prophet, whose footprints are said to be on the rock. For many years, pilgrims would chip off pieces of the rock to take home with them, but glass partitions now prevent visitors from taking souvenirs. A special wooden cabinet next to the rock holds strands of Mohammed's hair.Under the rock is a chamber known as the Well of the Souls. This is where it is said that all the souls of the dead congregate.The Al-Aksa mosque (Ministry of Tourism)At the southern end of the Temple Mount is the gray-domed al-Aksa mosque. The name means "the distant one," and refers to the fact that it was the most distant sanctuary visited by Mohammed. It is also the place where Mohammed experienced the "night journey," which is why it is considered the third holiest Islamic shrine after Mecca and Medina. In 1951, King Abdullah of Transjordan (Jordanian King Abdullah's great-grandfather) was assassinated in front of the mosque. Despite the name, the Muslim Quarter is also the site of many important Christian sites, including the Church of St. Anne, the Convent of the Sisters of Zion, and the Ecce Homo Church. The Via Dolorosa begins in this section of the city and most of the Way of the Cross is actually in the Muslim rather than the Christian Quarter.Most Muslims who live inside the Old City have homes in the Muslim Quarter, but this is an area where Jews resided for decades. In recent years, some Jews have moved back to this part of the city, an act viewed by Muslims and many others as unnecessarily provocative, though the Jewish residents would argue they have every right to live anywhere in their capital.

For a virtual High Definition view of the Muslim Quarter click here.
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