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View looking south inside the al-Aqsa Mosque down the "nave" toward the area where the mihrab and minbar are located.
On the left (east) the three eastern aisles are visible among the columns. On the right (west) one of the three aisles is visible between the row of columns and the row of brick pillars. The marble columns were donated by Mussolini.
On the floor, notice all of the marked out spaces on the carpet where individuals pray facing Mecca. The ceiling was a gift of King Farouk of Egypt during the last reconstruction (1938-1942).
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 that of Carl Rasmussen.