Saturday, April 9, 2011

Afternoon at al-Aqsa - Umrah Pilgrimage Part 12

The courtyard of the Dome of the Rock was a garden of Olives. As I walked pass slowly (not in deference but in exhaustion and jetlag) I could see school children playing and ancient Arab women making their way to the Dome. As it turned out, there was a women's prayer and study circle going on in the Dome. But we were permitted in anyway since we came a pretty long distance to get here - They came all the way from malaysie...!

The Dome of the Rock.
The Dome of Taufiq next to the Dome of the Rock. My Dome is growing bigger as my hairline fights a losing battle against my ever growing forehead. The Dome of the Rock, as far as I am aware is still the same size since the day it was completed by Caliph Abd al-Malik in 687 AD - about half a century after the passing of Muhammad, Prophet of God.
I lost my group. But all these contratemps and happenstances mean little when I am resting my back against a column that's probably more than 1,000 years old. It makes you think, doesn't it? And it makes you hungry, yes? It doesn't? Well it did for me. By now, I was already conspiring to leave the others to wander around the city on my own. Rushing from one holy place to another is just not my thing. I need to feel the place.
The al-Aqsa Mosque is very big and has a very high timber ceiling. During the zuhr (afternoon) prayers, the congregation was rather small, filling up only a small section of the mosque.

The al-Aqsa Mosque stands one level down from the Dome of the Rock. It has a dome too, which is grey in colour. The distance between the two holy sites must be about 200 plus metres, but both are contained within the same compound and surrouded by ancient sandstone walls. We saw a patrol of Israel soldiers pass by. Later, Saiful (a companion) mentioned to me that as these soldiers were entering into the holy prescint they saw him and greeted him with asalamualaikum, and not the normal hebrew shalom.
From any angle, the Dome of the Rock draws your attention. Each stone step, each pillar, each golden leaf upon the Dome must have a story to tell. Where I fail, I hope that you, sunshine, will be able to visit the Dome one day and continue where I left off.

I did indeed leave the group after the prayers. WIth my aching feet and terminal lack of sleep, I simply could not go on. Little did I know that Jerusalem was not done with me yet, and the afternoon would end up with me meeting an old Arab gentleman by the name of Abu Ayob and a trip to a his village. But that is another story for tomorrow.

Thank you, sunshine, for listening to my wandering tale in the Land of the Prophets.

Pax Taufiqa.

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