I first visited the Dome in 1967, a few months after the six-day war. The Israelis had already pulled down streets of houses and opened up a huge open space in front of the Wailing Wall which is also the wall of the Temple Mount. You passed the Wall, walked up a slope and emerged on the top somewhere between the Dome and the Al-Askah Mosque.
The Dome was amazing. Outside it was beautifully embelished with swirls and patterns, mostly blue on white. It was the inside that was truely glorious though. The floor was covered with layers of rugs and carpets. The light swept in through windows of stained glass giving a bright but richly coloured light which gave pools of sunlight and shadowed, hidden corners. The internal decoration was richer, more complex and more colourful than the outside and over all of this was the typical religious building atmosphere of calm, quiet and contemplation. I was able to sit on the floor for 20 minutes or so just soaking up the atmosphere before quietly walking out.
I went back with my wife 16 years later. We had to pay an admission fee, had to walk round on a quick accompanied tour and had to wait outside for the rest of the group. While we were sitting in the sun, wife got shouted at for exposing her knees. Not a pleasant return, the first time was better.
Now I think I’ve heard that they accept no visitors at all.
I enjoyed my first visit to the Dome. I was impressed by the beauty of the Islamic architecture and decoration. I felt rested and revived by the peaceful, reverent atmosphere. If visitors are no longer welcome I think that’s a shame both for those who are unable to appreciate the beauty and wonder of the place but also because it seems another symbol of the tension of the Middle East when it could perhaps work as a bridge instead.over 6 years ago