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View looking up at the central Dome that is located at the south end of the Mosque, over the area where the Mihrab and Minbar are located. Note the Arabic inscriptions above the windows of the Dome.
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. The mosque is built over a large number of subterranean arches, not on bedrock, and thus has been destroyed (earthquakes; the most recent in 1927) and rebuilt 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—when it was returned to its original function as a mosque.
The photo is courtesy of David Padfield (www.Padfield.com). The commentary is by Carl Rasmussen.