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Jerusalem 2015

Jerusalem is a holy city for two of the world’s major religions – and for one minor one too. It’s a location I’d always wanted to see in person, just because I wanted to know what all the fuss was about. I’m not a particularly “spiritual” person. I’m not easily moved by supposedly holy or historically significant places. But… Jerusalem did move me. Sort of.

I was lucky enough to be visiting during Easter. If you’re not a Christian then you might not appreciate the significance. Easter marks the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. And Jerusalem is where it’s all supposed to have happened. I was going to be visiting the sites where Christ was tortured and executed on the anniversary!! I hadn’t planned it that way. Just a happy coincidence. (OK, “happy” is probably the wrong word to use there.)

Aerial view of Tel Aviv.
Flying in. Aerial view of the beaches of Tel Aviv.

Getting to Jerusalem was always going to be a nightmare. I’ve talked before about the inconvenience of #FlyingWhileMuslim. Well, to get to Jerusalem you have to go through “Israel” – specifically the Ben Gurion airport (which is named for a famous terrorist) and, unlike other airports, they are not even shy about admitting they practice racial profiling. They’re actually proud of it. So after a five-hour interrogation, I was finally allowed to leave the airport and head to my Palestinian-owned hotel in central Jerusalem.

There are different ways to get to Jerusalem. Buses from the airport run hourly day and night, and are pretty cheap (15 shekels). Normal taxis are pretty expensive, as you’d expect, at around 300 shekels. The best way to get to Jerusalem in my opinion is to take a “Nesher” taxi (basically a shared minivan) from the airport. If in doubt, just ask for directions at the information desk for the Nesher taxi stand. You’ll be charged about 60 shekels and the drivers know pretty much every hotel off by heart. But it’s still good to have the full address written down. It took less than an hour for my driver to get me to my destination near the western gates of the old city. After a quick snooze, I was keen to head straight over to the main attraction: Masjid Al Aqsa aka “the farthest mosque”.

Jerusalem Conservatory of Music.
Jerusalem Conservatory of Music.
Herod's Gate, Jerusalem
Entrance to Herod’s Gate. Which takes you towards Dome of the Rock.
Herod's Gate, Jerusalem
Herod’s Gate, Jerusalem
Indian Hospice in Jerusalem
Entrance to the “Indian Hospice” in Jerusalem Old City.
Dome of the Rock
My first view of the Dome of the Rock, while walking down Herod’s Ascent.
Jerusalem architecture
Beautiful architecture in the Old City.
Jerusalem architecture

Masjid Al Alqsa

Getting into the al-Haram al-Qudsi al-Sharif (“The noble sanctuary of Jerusalem”) isn’t easy. There are soldiers guarding the entrance to keep non-Muslims out, who will force you to show ID and recite passages from the Qur’an as proof you deserve entry! Then, while wandering the complex you might get spot-checked by armed Palestinian soldiers who’ll demand the same again. With just my Muslim name and rudimentary Arabic skills I passed their tests and was allowed entry.

Temple Mount
Inside Masjid al Haram (Temple Mount) complex.
Dome of the Rock.
Dome of the Rock.
Dome of the Rock.
Dome of the Rock.

Up close, the Dome of the Rock is the most breath-taking work of architecture I’ve ever seen. Remember how I said I’m never moved by holy and/or historic places? Well I was definitely moved by the beauty of this particular place, and it was totally unexpected. Caught me massively off guard. I’m sure my heart stopped for a few moments when I first set eyes on it.

Dome of the Rock.
Dome of the Rock.
Dome of the Rock.
Dome of the Rock at Zuhr time.
Masjid Al Aqsa
Masjid Al Aqsa
Inside Masjid al Aqsa.
Inside Masjid al Aqsa.
Inside Masjid al Aqsa.
Inside Masjid al Aqsa.
Inside Masjid al Aqsa.
Inside Masjid al Aqsa.
Inside Masjid al Aqsa.
Inside Masjid al Aqsa.
Mihrab of Masjid al Aqsa.
Mihrab of Masjid al Aqsa.
Inside Masjid al Aqsa.
Inside Masjid al Aqsa.
Inside Masjid al Aqsa.
Inside Masjid al Aqsa.
Inside Masjid al Aqsa.
View of Jerusalem city from inside Masjid al Aqsa.
Masjid al Aqsa after Zuhr.
Outside Masjid al Aqsa after Zuhr.
Dome of the Rock.
Dome of the Rock.
Masjid al Aqsa.
External view of Masjid al Aqsa.
Dome of the Rock at Asr time.
Dome of the Rock at Asr time.
Inside Dome of the Rock.
Inside Dome of the Rock.
Inside Dome of the Rock.
Inside Dome of the Rock.
Inside Dome of the Rock.
Inside Dome of the Rock.
King Faisal's Gate
King Faisal’s Gate
Visiting Dome of the Rock for Maghrib salah.
Visiting Dome of the Rock for Maghrib salah.
The wudu area outside Masjid Al Aqsa.
The wudu area outside Masjid Al Aqsa.
Masjid al Aqsa after Maghrib salah.
Masjid al Aqsa after Maghrib salah.
Dome of the Rock at night
Dome of the Rock at night
Jerusalem from above
View of Jerusalem from above. It is a huge city. You can just about see the Golden Dome of the Rock in the left third of the picture.
Sunset over Jerusalem.
Sunset over Jerusalem.

Wailing Wall

Wailing Wall (Western Wall)
View of the Wailing Wall (Western Wall) with Masjid al Aqsa above it.
Wailing Wall (Western Wall)
View of the Wailing Wall (Western Wall) with Dome of the Rock above it.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Also known as The Church of the Resurrection, this is the holiest place in the world according to Christians. It’s shared by several different denominations of the Christian faith, but none of them control the building outright. The key to the church is held by a Muslim family – because they are neutral – who open and close the building every day!

The Church is built on several locations related to the last day of Jesus’ life, including the site of the crucifixion and the tomb where he was buried! So coming here at Easter time, well there was a lot going on…

Entrance to Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Entrance to Church of the Holy Sepulchre. The holiest church in the world according to Christians.
Entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Entrance to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Inside Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Inside Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

The Stone of Unction

So the pictures below are of the Stone of Unction, also known at the Stone of Anointing. It’s an incredibly important site according to Christian tradition, as it’s where the body of Jesus was laid and prepared for burial by Joseph of Arimathea. That’s why, as you can see, Christian visitors will weep over the stone.

Inside Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Inside the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
Easter service. Inside Church of the Holy Sepulchre.
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