The Dome of the Rock is considered the most beautiful mosque. Also it is the most important architectural monument of Arabic world, with its golden dome being the most recognizable landmark of Jerusalem. The Mosque is in the middle of the Temple Mount dominating all other nearby mounts: Zion, Eleon and Olive.
In the Bible it is told as Abraham wanted to immolate his son Isaac on the site, and David built there the Altar to store the ark of the Covenant. His son, King Solomon, one thousand and a half before construction of the mosque, in 950 B.C., built on the Mount the greatest temple of the period, which was then called Solomon`s Temple or the First Temple. The Jews called Moria Zion Mount. Later the word ‘Zion’ became the symbol of Israel and Judaism as a whole.
Arabic caliph Omar conquered Jerusalem in 638. As the city is as sacred for Muslims as for Jews and Christians, Omar built mosques on the site of the First and Second Temples, which were then already destroyed.
Muslims called the Temple Mount Haram Esh-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary). And there were erected two mosques – Kubbat as-Sahra (Arabic for ‘dome of the rock’) crowned with gold dome, and low but very spacious al-Aqsa, sometimes referred to as the Mosque of Omar.
These mosques are a single religious complex built on the site of events, which played an important role in establishing of Muslim religion. According to the Koran, in 619 there was the ‘night of journey’ (The Lailat al Miraj), when Archangel Gabriel woke prophet Muhammad and the mythological steed Buraq transported him from Mecca to Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, and then Gabriel took him to the Heaven.
Caliph Omar ruled in 634-644, and he conquered a lot of lands, including the sacred city of Jerusalem. He also laid down two mosques on the Temple Mount. Their construction was carried out mainly under caliph Abd al Malik in 687-691. Since that time the Dome of the Rock had been rebuilt and repaired after earthquakes, but generally we have the original building dating from VII century.
You must understand that acting mosque is nearby al-Aqsa. As a prayer house, it is just this mosque, and not the Dome of the Rock, that is considered the third important Muslim sanctuary (after Al-Haram in Mecca and Al-Navabi in Medina). Besides, the Dome of the Rock can house but a small number of people, so it was converted into «woman mosque».
Golden dome of the mosque is above the peak of the Moria Mount, which is the center of the world (in Jewish and Muslim religions). The «Rock» is in the center of the mosque. There are small passages around the “center of the world” where you can go about but not pray.
There is a spot in al-Aqsa Mosque called Makom Aziz. According to one version, Ascension of Muhammad occurred just on this spot. However, according to other version (and it sounds more solid), Muhammad was transferred from the summit of Moria Mount, which is inside the Dome of the Rock. It is just there that you can see the «footprint of Muhammad», which he left in the ‘night of journey’, as well 3 hairs from his beard.
You can not enter the mosque unless you are a Muslim. Also you can not take pictures inside the mosque. You can ascend the Temple Mount only within strictly limited periods of time: 7:30-10:30 and 12:30-13:30 in winter, 8:00-11:00 and 13:15-15:00 in summer.