View to the south. The main entrance to the el-Aqsa mosque. To the left (east) of the entrance is another arch. In front of it are two square squat pillars. Between them a sixteen-step flight of stairs (not visible in photo) leads down to a narrow underground passageway that in turn leads to what was the Double Gate during New Testament times.
For a more general view of the entrance click here.
The el-Aqsa Mosque is the third holiest site in Islam - after Mecca and Medina. Its name means "the distant place," and it is believed that Mohammed made a "night journey" to this place.
Caliph Walid (A.D. 709–715) built the first mosque. It has been destroyed, rebuilt, and refurbished many times. During the Crusader Period (A.D. 1099-1187) it served briefly as the palace for the Crusader kings of Jerusalem, but then became the headquarters of the Knights Templar until the Crusaders were expelled from Jerusalem.
During the month of Ramadan, the mosque and the open spaces in front of it are crowded with hundreds of thousands of Moslem worshipers for Friday prayers.
Some believe that it is built over the spot where Solomon built his palace, but this is not certain.