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If you want to know how to visit the Dome of the Rock and Temple Mount in Jerusalem, here’s a travel guide with all the tips you need.
How to Visit the Dome of the Rock and Temple Mount
The line-up was long, the sun was intense and my destination was the gold dome in Jerusalem, the shining beacon of Temple Mount.
Temple Mount, or Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) in Arabic, is one of the world’s most sacred religious sites and a powerful addition to any Israel itinerary.
Revered by Jews, Muslims, and Christians alike, it’s a place of profound historical and cultural significance with a spectacular setting overlooking the Old City of Jerusalem.
Inside the Temple Mount complex is the Dome of the Rock with its dazzling gold roof, and I was finally going to visit.
It wasn’t my first attempt.
What You Need to Know About Visiting Temple Mount
Between dress codes, limited opening hours, tight security, and various rules and restrictions, Temple Mount is not the simplest place to visit.
It’s worth it. Dripping with history, laced with faith, and enhanced with precious architecture, it’s one of the blockbuster sights of Jerusalem.
It can be done easily once you know how.
Temple Mount Travel Guide
So let me tell you what I learned. This guide to visiting Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock is filled with tips on what to see, how to get there, and what rules you need to follow.
If there are no unexpected closures (which happens) you’ll have no problem visiting Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock for yourself.
🌿 Travel Tip: There is no entrance fee for Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock.
See? Haven’t I inspired you to tour it already?
Looking for a guided tour? You can visit the Dome of the Rock and Temple Mount on this Half-Day Guided Walk of the Old City.
Why Is It Hard to Visit Temple Mount?
Temple Mount is an extremely sacred site so there are regulations set in place to ensure it’s respected.
Because Temple Mount is so revered, it’s also a flashpoint for political and religious tensions.
It can close down at a moment’s notice, and a women’s protest was the reason I couldn’t go back in 2015.
Sometimes, however, the longer you wait for things, the more you appreciate them, and that was the case for me.
Looking for a tour of Jerusalem from Tel Aviv that includes Temple Mount? This full-day tour includes the top sights in the Old City. Check it out here.
Entry for Visitors is Through the Moroccan Gate
My excitement was building as I shuffled ahead in a long line at the Moroccan Gate.
🌿 Travel Tip: The Moroccan Gate (Mughrabi Gate), is the only entrance non-Muslims can use to gain entry to Temple Mount.
To find it, look for an elevated wooden walkway by the Western Wall. Head up that and you’ll eventually arrive at the security check for the entrance.
🌿 Travel Tip: The Dung Gate into the Old City of Jerusalem is the nearest gate to Temple Mount. You can also get there from the Lion’s Gate or the Chain Gate.
Dress Code for Temple Mount
I’d heard that when visiting Temple Mount women should cover their shoulders, elbows, legs, and head, so I’d dressed carefully.
Skirt below my knees, a shawl to throw over my hair, and a top that covered my shoulders.
There are also other do’s and don’t’s regarding entry.
Don’t carry in any Christian or Jewish religious material: no pamphlets, prayer books, Bibles or big silver crosses.
I hadn’t planned to carry in forbidden items, but I rifled through my bag in case something had mysteriously fallen in.
All was good. I was set for my visit to the famous Dome of the Rock and its glittering gold dome of Jerusalem.
Or was I?
Entering Temple Mount
After I went through the airport-style metal detectors, a security guard motioned me over to a table full of clothing.
Big ugly clothing. My calf-length skirt wasn’t long enough.
I pulled on a voluminous skirt with a yellow racing stripe down the side, tried not to think of how many people had worn it before me, and was waved ahead.
🌿 Travel Tip: There is no charge for the rented clothing.
Surprisingly, I didn’t need to cover my head, so I wrapped my Hermes shawl around my shoulders and waddled in.
As I looked around, I took great pleasure in seeing a number of male tourists wearing the same bulky skirts. Clearly they’d failed the ‘bare legs’ test, too.
🌿 Travel Tip: Cropped pants aren’t okay, at least they weren’t when I was there. You’ll get the ‘big skirt’ treatment no matter your gender.
Who Runs Temple Mount and Sets the Rules?
It’s complicated. The Islamic Waqf, established by Saladin in 1187, is a Jordanian religious trust that administers the site. The Palestinian Authority also has a role in the administration.
Israel is responsible for security.
🌿 Travel Tip: Security is tight. Don’t be alarmed if you see a lot of armed guards.
What is Temple Mount?
Temple Mount is a 37-acre elevated pavilion paved with stone slabs in the heart of Old Jerusalem.
The first thing that might surprise you is the size and serenity of the complex. It’s a world apart from the labyrinthine lanes of the Old City.
Located at Old Jerusalem’s highest point, the complex has a number of structures and spaces to explore.
Two must-see sights are the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque.
Why Is Temple Mount So Famous?
There are several reasons why Temple Mount is venerated. Architecture, history, location … but it mainly comes down to religion.
An Important Site for Muslims
In Islam, the Al-Aqsa Mosque at Temple Mount is the third holiest site after Mecca and Medina.
Why? According to Islamic tradition, the Prophet Muhammad transcended to Heaven from the site of the Dome of the Rock after being transported from Mecca by the Angel Gabriel.
It’s the Holiest Site in the World in Judaism
Why? The Temple Mount is believed to be where the First and Second Temples once stood.
Solomon’s Temple was the First Temple and was destroyed by the Babylonians.
The Second Temple was built by King Herod in 20 BCE, but razed by the Romans in 70 BCE.
In Christianity, Temple Mount is important for its biblical ties and religious roots, though other sights in Jerusalem like the Church of the Holy Sepulchre carry more weight.
According to some accounts it’s where Jesus overturned the tables of the money changers and merchants in the “Cleansing of the Temple.”
How to Visit the Dome of the Rock
Like bees to honey, most tourists turn left and head straight to the Dome of the Rock. It’s a great place to start your tour.
A stunning Islamic shrine, it’s the most recognizable landmark at Temple Mount, not least because of its huge gold dome that can be seen from all over the city.
The Gold Dome in Jerusalem
Sixty-five feet (20 metres) in diameter, the gleaming gold dome sits on a supporting drum of brilliant blue-hued tiles.
For me, it was an astonishing sight, as if the sun and sky had been condensed down to one vivid celestial vision.
I’d seen the gold dome of Jerusalem shimmering at sunset. I’d seen it reflecting light during the day. But always from a distance so it never seemed real.
Now it was in front of me, like a mirage come to life.
There is so much history here, so much spiritual might, but I couldn’t get past the gold.
How could there be so much? Gold is heavy. Why hasn’t the dome collapsed? How do they keep it from being stolen?
Is the Dome of the Rock Pure Gold?
I learned that the dome’s thousands of plates are not solid gold. They are, however, finished with pure gold leaf.
Also, the dome you see in Jerusalem today is not the original.
The project to restore the dome was funded by the late King Hussein of Jordan in 1959 at a cost of more than 7 million dollars.
The gold itself is worth about 1.4 million.
That’s still a lot of gold.
Why is the Dome of the Rock So Famous?
It’s not just the gold that makes the Dome of the Rock glitter.
A magnificent example of Islamic architecture, it is, in fact, one of the oldest surviving Islamic buildings in existence.
It was built in 691 by the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik bin Marwan, possibly to outshine the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Islam was still a fledgling religion, established about 610, so why not build a magnificent symbol to represent it?
Byzantine in style, the Dome of the Rock is an octagon that glimmers with intricate tiles of blue, green and gold; marble columns and of course, that dazzling gold dome.
Once I’d gotten over the visual slam of the shrine’s beauty, I could focus on the real core of its power.
Because the true significance of the Dome of the Rock lies underneath.
Inside the Dome of the Rock
What is the ‘rock’ under the Dome of the Rock?
Known as the Foundation Stone, it’s a large, rough but flat-ish rock that sits at the centre of the shrine.
Part of the bedrock below, the Foundation Stone has been hacked at by crusaders, revered by thousands and worn smooth in places by the touch of countless hands.
A gap at its southern side leads down to a cave known as the Well of Souls where, it’s said, you can hear the voices of the dead awaiting Judgement Day.
The Significance of the Foundation Stone in Judaism
According to Jewish tradition, it’s the spot where the Ark of the Covenant was placed when the First and Second Temples stood here.
Some believe it’s where creation began and where Abraham was poised to sacrifice Isaac. (There is debate about this.)
The Foundation Stone in Islam
For Muslims, the Foundation Stone is believed to be the spot from which the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven.
Crusaders at the Dome of the Rock
Here’s a surprise: The site of the Dome of the Rock was briefly a Christian church after the Crusaders captured Jerusalem in 1099.
That only lasted until 1187 when the city was recaptured by the Muslim leader Saladin.
Can Non-Muslim Visitors Enter the Dome of the Rock?
No. They’re free to admire the outside but can only imagine the interior, richly ornamented with pillars, columns, mosaics and Islamic inscriptions.
Visiting the Dome of the Chain
Once you’ve circled the Dome of the Rock and gotten your fill of blazing gold, check out the smaller domed structure next to it.
Named the Dome of the Chain, its delicate charm and detailed tile work won me over immediately.
Built around the same time as the Dome of the Rock, it’s an open air structure supported by columns (and one of the few places you’ll find shade.)
Under the Dome
While non-Muslims can only admire the golden Dome of the Rock from the outside, it’s possible to step inside the Dome of the Chain.
Here you can see striking glazed tiles, the elaborate ceiling and patterned floor.
The Purpose of the Dome of the Chain
Questions linger over its purpose. A meeting place for scholars? A treasury? A prototype for the Dome of the Rock? The mystery remains.
🌿 During the crusader era the Dome of the Chain was used as a Christian chapel as they had identified it as the place where St. James was martyred.
Seeing Al-Aqsa Mosque
We’re not done with domes yet.
Another powerfully sacred site at the Temple Mount complex is Al-Aqsa Mosque, also called the Qibli Mosque.
You can recognize it by its ribbed lead dome that looks like burnished silver.
This large complex of courtyards, domes, and minarets has gone through so much destruction, resurrection and expansion its hard to keep it all straight.
Earthquakes, attacks, occupations (the crusaders used it as a palace), arson … Al-Aqsa Mosque has seen it all.
With a capacity to hold 5,500 worshippers, it’s an active mosque and an important symbol of Islam.
Can non-Muslims go inside Al-Aqsa Mosque? No.
Visiting the Western Wall – Is It Part of Temple Mount?
The Western Wall is the last remnant of the Second Temple.
It’s where many Jewish people pray as, per Israeli regulations, they’re not allowed to pray at Temple Mount.
(The rules may be bending on that, causing a great deal of controversy.)
Since the Western Wall, or Wailing Wall, is not inside the Temple Mount compound you do not need to go through the lineup to visit it.
Temple Mount Opening Hours
Temple Mount is open to non-Muslim visitors from Sunday to Thursday, except for certain Muslim and Jewish holidays.
It can also close down suddenly for various other reasons like political issues.
Summer Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Winter Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.
To avoid long lines, going right at opening time is a good idea.
How to Visit Temple Mount: Tips and Rules
Visiting Temple Mount in Jerusalem is subject to certain rules and regulations.
Here are some general guidelines and tips:
- Dress modestly, with no shorts or revealing clothing. I didn’t need to cover my head, but I suggest you take something just in case.
- Bring your passport: It may or may not be needed, but have it with you.
- Non-Muslim visitors are not allowed to pray or conduct any religious rituals on the Mount.
- Don’t bring in Jewish or Christian religious material or objects.
- Avoid public displays of affection.
- Photography is allowed outside. Best not to photograph the guards.
- Be respectful and mindful of the spiritual significance of the site.
- Get in line early: You won’t get in past closing time no matter how long you waited in line.
- Check out this interactive map for tips on what to see.
Why Visit Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock?
Exploring Temple Mount is a mind-bending journey into the heart of Jerusalem’s history, religion and culture.
Why Obsess Over the Domes?
Granted, not everyone will be as fixated on the domes of Temple Mount as I am, but they are meaningful.
The curved domes of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock are unforgettable, not just for their formidable beauty but for their symbolic heft of devotion and faith.
In religious architecture, domes are a link between the earthly and the divine.
Their circular shape represents unity and inclusivity – a powerful motif at a site that has been fought over for centuries.
Knowing how to visit Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock isn’t just about rules, directions and facts.
It’s about it’s about immersing yourself in the spirit of a lightening-rod spot where diverse cultures meet and the weight of history (and domes!) is rich with the echoes of faith.
FAQs About Visiting the Dome of the Rock
There are about 15 domes at Temple Mount altogether. The most famous is the gleaming gold dome at the Dome of the Rock.
While there are some rules and regulations regarding visiting the Dome of the Rock at Temple Mount, it’s certainly possible to visit this stunning sacred site in Jerusalem.
No, it’s considered more of a shrine.