Suitcase and World: Temple Mount.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Temple Mount.

Posing for a photo in front of the Dome of the Rock.  Okay, my pants are short and my shoes aren't pretty but I don't care. 

Last night, I had laid out my plan for this morning - to visit Temple Mount first thing in the morning and then to go on my pre-scheduled tour of the City of David at 10a.

At this time of year, access to Temple Mount opens at 7:30a. I wanted to make sure I was in line before then so I opted out of taking the light rail down to the Old City and then walking over to the Dung Gate where the entrance to Temple Mount is located. Moreover, I didn't want to waste the energy of at least 40 minutes of walking just to get from the hotel to Dung Gate - rather save that energy for walking around other places. I knew the taxi would cost me and arm and a leg but it would be worth it. 50 shekels, a grouchy Palestinian driver (who turned out to be very nice when he found out I came from Malaysia.....the fellow Muslim thing though I'm not Muslim) and 20 minutes after I left the hotel, I arrived at Dung Gate.

Inside the Gate, alongside the secured entrances to the Western Wall, was a line of people standing in front of the entrance to the Mount.

It was around 7:20 when I arrived to the line. It appeared that most of the people were with a large group of Italian visitors. Behind me was a sizable contingent of Russian tourists. Little ole me, squashed between the tourists. As it would turn out, that was not a bad thing!

7:30a came and went and the line had not moved an inch. I have come to accept the fact that here, you just wait. Eventually something will happen. Sure enough, a few minutes later, the line started to move. One of the guides for the Italians moved ahead and I immediately followed him, as if I was part of the group. No one said anything. By now, I had been through the security lines so many times, I knew the routine down pat. I quickly walked through the scanner and almost ran ahead of the crowd.

Part way up the walkway, I stopped to take a photo of the Western Wall. It was a great spot to take in the view.

View of the Wall from the entry ramp up to Temple Mount.

The walkway ended on the southern end of Temple Mount; Al-Aqsa Mosque was to my right. I recognized it from the pictures. There was one guy ahead of me and I knew where he was heading so I quickly followed. As soon as the gold colored dome came into view, I picked up my pace.

Temple Mount.

I let the man take his photos and then I quickly assumed my position and fired off a few shots. The visitors were just entering the complex and I figured the guides would hold them back so they could explain to the people what they were about to see. I wasted no seconds. I headed up to the plaza and soaked in the views of the magnificent Dome of the Rock; the Dome of the Chain standing nearby. The shimmering gold done seemed to shimmer even more in the morning light and the the blue, white and green tiles that line the walls are just stunning!

The Dome of the Rock is a small structure. Somehow, I imagined it would be bigger. I took photo after photo, walking around the building.

On the steps leading up to the Dome of the Rock.  The Gold Dome stood out beautifully against the clear blue sky.

Dome of the Rock on the left, the smaller Dome of the Chain on the right.

Dome of the Chain in the foreground, Dome of the Rock in the background.


Detail of the exterior wall.  Beautiful tile with inscriptions from the Quran.

Entry door.

I even had time to have my photo taken by two fellow tourists. I didn't think the first shot had come out well so I asked a second person to take a photo. I actually like both shots!

Non-Muslims are not allowed inside either the Dome of the Rock or the Al-Aqsa Mosque so all I could do was walk around. I strolled about and checked out every nook and cranny. 

First photo taken by fellow tourist.

View of the Al- Aqsa Mosque from the Dome of the Rock.  These arched structures are called "Qanatirs".

Dome of the Chain.

Looking up at the interior of the Dome of the Chain.

Beautiful wall detail.

Dome of the Rock on the left and Dome of the Prophet on the right.

View of the two Domes taken from the perimeter of the's a big space!

Dome of the Prophet and a smaller dome.

More detail of the exterior wall.

The domed fountain, Sabil of Qaitbey, on the right.  The Ashrafiyya Madrasa behind.

One entrance was open and local Muslims were entering for prayer. 

Summer minbar, built by the Ottomans, used to deliver services in warm weather.

Looking east towards the Mount of Olives.

The gold domes of St. Mary Magdalene Church on the Mount of Olives.

I left the Dome complex as the other tourists started to arrive.

As the sun rose higher in the sky, the gold colored dome seem to shimmer even more.

Standing on the side of Al-Aqsa mosque where the stables used to be;  old Roman column capitals on the ground.

Side entrant to Al-Aqsa Mosque

Side view of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Detail of the Roman columns.

A tree lined walkway.  Temple Mount is very pretty park space as well.

It was starting to get hot standing out in the sun so I took a few opportunities to sit in the shade and people watch.

From the front of Al-Aqsa Mosque looking at the Dome of the Rock.

Groups of Muslim men and separately, groups of Muslim women sitting in circles, presumably reciting passages from the Quran.

Looking at the front entrance to Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Front entrance to Al-Aqsa;  the green door on the left is the way in.

The front door.

The Museum of Islamic Art.  It was closed so I didn't get to go inside :-(

More ruins of Roman column capitals.

Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Al-Kas ("The Cup") ablution fountain.  I liked the the stone seats in front of each faucet.

A row of faucets and stone seats for ablution.

I had to keep a watch on time as I had my 10a appointment at the City of David. By about 9:15a, I decided I was finally ready to leave....after having walked around parts of the complex at least twice. Access toTemple Mount is tightly controlled so it's not as if I can just dart back in if I exit and change my mind.

I exited via Chain Gate Street which runs right alongside the Western Wall so it was easy to make my way back to the Wall. More security. At every possible, permitted entry point to the Wall, you have to walk through security scanners and whatever you are carrying is scanned as well. Security is understandably tight

Chain Gate Street.

Every now and again, I would come across some creative graffiti.

Ha-Kotel is Hebrew for the Western Wall.  Follow the sign and you can't get lost!

I didn't realize until I went to the Tourist Information Center to get instructions on exactly where to go to enter Temple Mount that the wooden, makeshift looking walkway that protrudes over part of the Western Wall Plaza is the walkway up from Dung Gate to Temple Mount.

I think I've been to the Wall about four times now and I've gotten the lay of the Old City down. So far, I've not gotten lost! I took spot on the stone bench at the far end of the Western Wall Plaza and whipped out my trusty map of the city.

Best tip I can give you is get the free map from the Tourist Information Center by Jaffa Gate. It's accurately and incredibly useful!  I have to figure out how to get to the City of David for the next part of my day.  What a memorable visit it has been to Temple Mount!