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Al Aqsa Mosque
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Quick Facts on Al Aqsa Mosque

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Al Aqsa Mosque Al Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem Al-Aqsa Mosque al-Masjid al-Aqsa al-Masjid al-Aqsa al-Mubarak al-Masjid el-Aksa Farthest Mosque
Temple Mount, Jerusalem Jerusalem, Jerusalem District
Jerusalem  locality
Israel  country
Middle East  continent
Main date(s)
31.776264° N, 35.235547° E
Combined ticket for El-Aqsa Mosque, Dome of the Rock, and Islamic Museum NIS 36
02/628-3292 or 02/628-3313

Description of Al Aqsa Mosque

The Al-Aqsa Mosque occupies the south side of the Haram (Temple Mount) and is oriented north to south. The entrance and main facade is on the north side, directly facing the Dome of the Rock. Al-Aqsa's dome is at the south end, over the mihrab.

Built by the Templars, the facade's three central bays are Romanesque in style, with the zigzag decoration and blind arches seen more commonly in 11th- and 12th-century European churches. The outer arches added by the Mamelukes in the 14th century follow the same general design. Entrance is through the central arch.

The interior of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, with seven aisles, dates mostly from the 20th century. The nave and east side of the mosque were rebuilt as part of a major restoration in 1938-42, during which the Carrara marble columns were donated by Mussolini of all people, and the colorful painted ceiling was funded by King Farouk of Egypt.

Some older elements do survive, however, including the mihrab at the south end, decorated in 1187 by Saladin, and the mosaics above the central aisle arch and in the dome, dating from 1035. Just east of the mihrab is a Crusader chapel known as the Mihrab of Zacharia, with a lovely rose window. Another Crusader chapel on the west side is used for women's prayer.

Still older elements are hidden underneath the mosque, in an area not normally open to visitors. Just to the left of the main entrance to Al-Aqsa, a flight of 16 steps leads down to an area called al-Aqsa Qadima (Ancient Al-Aqsa), where an ancient ramp connects the Temple Mount with the walled-up Double Gate.

Just inside the Double Gate is a vestibule containing columns from Herod's original south entrance to Temple Mount. The columns support two pairs of domes, which date from a reconstruction in the 7th century. More columns were added later to provide support to the platform above; these probably date from construction on Al-Aqsa Mosque in the 8th century.

Holly Hayes
November 1, 2011

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