Dome of the Rock is perhaps the most iconic symbol of the City of Jerusalem; its golden dome stands-out above the rooftops of the city, majestic, mysterious and magnificent. Dome of the Rock (Kubbat as-Sakhra) was built on Temple Mount, a hill within the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City in 688-691 by Caliph Abd el-Malik. The Dome of the Rock remains Jerusalem’s most recognized landmark and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is possible to tour Temple Mount and view the Dome of the Rock from the outside but entry is prohibited. The best way to see the Dome of the Rock is to join a Jerusalem Temple Mount & Dome of the Rock tour.
The Dome of the Rock stands on Temple Mount in the southeastern corner of the Old City. It was here that the First Temple (Solomon’s Temple) stood from the 10th century until 587BC. The Second Temple was built in 516BC and was destroyed in 70AD. Temple Mount has been held sacred by Christians, Muslims, and Jews for thousands of years and the exact location where the Dome of the Rock stands has special significance.
For Christians and Jews, the rock over which the Dome of the Rock stands is where Abraham nearly sacrificed his son Isaac to prove his faith in God; for Muslims, the same story is told but instead of Isaac Abraham planned to sacrifice his son Ishmael. Jews also hold this site sacred as it was where the Ark of the Covenant with the Ten Commandments tablets was kept in the Inner Sanctum of the ancient Temple. For Muslims the shrine holds the rock from which the Prophet Muhammad stepped up to heaven; it is also believed that he founded Islam at this exact site. The Dome of the Rock is one of the oldest surviving Islamic monuments. It is not a mosque but a shrine. Sharing Temple Mount with the Dome of the Rock is the Al Aqsa Mosque, believed to be where the prophet traveled on his Night Journey as told in the Koran. For all of these reasons the site where the Dome of the Rock stands is believed to be where the divine presence of God exists more than any other place in the world.
The original 7th-century structure collapsed in 1015 and the one we see today dates back to 1023. The lower section of the Dome of the Rock is octagonal and covered with colorful blue-hued mosaics modeled after nearby Byzantine churches. During the Ottoman era, the exterior was altered somewhat and until the 1960s the iconic gold-colored dome was plain lead. The gold-colored dome shines out above a circular drum on the brilliant mosaic base which is divided up by piers, columns, arches, and windows. Just like the exterior, the interior of the shrine is adorned with opulent mosaics; tin-glazed ceramics; marble and quotes from the Koran. At the center of the Dome of the Rock is the Foundation Stone, credited as the place where God created the world; as the place where God created Adam; the place where Abraham nearly sacrificed his son; it is associated with Islamic beliefs about the creation of the world and as the place where the Prophet Muhammad went up to heaven.