Today is Eid, the ending of the Ramadan fast for Muslims. This is traditionally when they give each other gifts and wear new, brightly coloured clothes, at little like Christmas for Christians. For Muslims, Mecca is the Holy of Holies. It is a place you must visit at least once during your lifetime to do the Hajj, pilgrimage. For many the trip to Saudi is a long and expensive one. The third most holy site for a Muslim is Al-Aqsa Mosque (Masjid al-Aqsa) Al Aqsa was built in 705ad but was destroyed by an earthquake. The current structure is dated to 1133AD.
Al Aqsa means farthest Mosque, in reference to the journey Mohammed made on his way to heaven to receive instructions from Allah.The Mosque has seven arches, seven fountains and many porches and domes including the Dome of Ascension, Dome of the Prophet and Dome of the Chain.
The mosque can accommodate up to 5000 praying people at one time. It stands on what the Crusaders believed to have been Solomon’s Temple on the edge of a marketplace at the side of Temple Mount. It is thought to be by some scholars that this is where Jesus drove out the money-changers in the Bible.
When I told a friend where I was going and I am going to use her words here, she told me that she “goes all knobs thinking about Al Aqsa Mosque!” So Ayisha, I will visit here just for you!
Not far from the Mosque is the Dome of the Rock the place we probably all associate with Jerusalem-the gold domed building revered by both Jews and Muslims alike. Both have separate entrances to revere the huge foundation stone that Jews believe is the centre of the earth. It was here that Abraham prepared to sacrifice his son. And for Muslims this is where the Prophet Mohammed ascended to heaven. The stone is surrounded now by a wooden fence. According to Muslim tradition, the stone wanted to join Mohammed in heaven and he pushed it back down to earth with his foot, apparently leaving a visible footprint (still in one corner). According to Jewish tradition, this rock marks the centre of the world.
The more I am reading, the more I am thinking I am not going to have time to see all I want to see in the short time I am there. I am really looking forward to travelling to the Holy Land (only 2 sleeps to go!!) and seeing as much as I can see. On Temple mount there are monuments to Islam, Christianity and Judaism, these historic monuments sit side by side sharing history from their great books of learned wisdom. I am hoping to learn from all these amazing places I will be visiting, places that even the most uneducated of people will of heard of. Places that are omnipresent over race religion and time. No matter what your beliefs, creed or colour, these buildings will stand all prejudices and will outlive us all.
This will probably be my last post until I am out there. Signing off now from a hot and humid Coventry…until the next time to a hot, hopefully less humid, Bethlehem.