Aqsa Mosque

Why is the mosque esplanade so important?

The Esplanade des Mosques is the 3rd Muslim holy place after Mecca and Medina. Whatever the route of your trip to Palestine, it's a safe bet that you'll go there.


Located in the heart of Jerusalem, it includes the Great Mosque of Al Aqsa, the most majestic in Jerusalem, but also the Dome of the Rock known for its golden dome visible from the heights of the city and the Bouraq mosque. This is also where Jerusalem's Temple Mount was located, the largest Jewish holy site destroyed by the Roman Emperor Titus in 70 AD. The place is therefore a source of strong tensions between the two communities.

Name origin

The name “esplanade of mosques” is Franco-French, because the Jews call it Temple Mount and the Muslims the Haram al Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary. The English-speaking press uses both terms. It extends over 150,000 m2, and has in addition to the three mosques, numerous remarkable buildings with splendid frescoes, porticos, arches, and all around, places of prayer, madrassas (Koranic schools) and fountains for the ritual ablutions before prayer. Every year tens of thousands of pilgrims gather there to pray for the Hajj, a Muslim pilgrimage... Learn more about Al-Aqsa Mosque

Al Aqsa Mosque

Qibli mosque

The Al Aqsa Mosque was built at the beginning of the 8th century on the ruins of the Temple of Solomon. The latter, rebuilt by Herod in the 6th century BC in the form of a royal colonnaded basilica (the stoa) was enlarged in the 1st century BC. The Western Wall is the remains of this famous temple.

It was from the Arab conquest in 637 that the abandoned place was used for the construction of the first mosque in Jerusalem by the second caliph of Jerusalem, Omar ibn al-Khattâb. The first building is really modest according to the testimonies of historians of the time.

According to Muslim tradition, it is here that Muhammad arrived from Mecca during Israel (the “night journey”) and where he rose to the heavens to reach paradise, during the Miraj, riding his horse Bouraq. .

But after destructive conquests and reconquests, the mosque took its current appearance in the 13th century. It is the most imposing mosque in Jerusalem, which can accommodate nearly 5,000 worshipers during prayer!

The Dome of the Rock

Dome of the rock

The best-known mosque on the esplanade is undoubtedly the Dome of the Rock, the oldest still standing. It was built in 691, during the reign of Abd Al Malik. In addition to its golden dome which can be seen from the Mount of Olives and is found on all the postcards of Jerusalem, it is home to the famous Rock of the Foundation, which according to the Koran is the place where Abraham offered his son Ishmael as a sacrifice ( editor's note: Jews and Christians think it is his son Isaac).

The Bouraq mosque

The third mosque, that of Bouraq, therefore refers to Muhammad's horse when he ascended to heaven. Legend has it that the Prophet tied his mount to the Western Wall and that the mosque was built there.

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