Early Accounts of the Temple of Jerusalem – Sources     HomeSourcesTopicsViews

The travels of Nasir-i-Khusrau to Jerusalem, 1047 C.E.

Translated by Guy Le Strange, Palestine Pilgrims' Text Society, 1893.

* * * * *

I now purpose to make a description of the Holy City. Jerusalem is a city set on a hill, and there is no water therein, except what falls in rain. The villages round have springs of water, but the Holy City has no springs. The city is enclosed by strong walls of stone, mortared, and there are iron gates. Round about the city there are no trees, for it is all built on the rock. Jerusalem is a very great city, and, at the time of my visit, there were in it twenty thousand men. It has high, well-built, and clean bazaars. All the streets are paved with slabs of stone; and wheresoever there was a hill or a height, they have cut it down and made it level, so that as soon as the rain falls the whole place is washed clean. There are in the city numerous artificers, and each craft has a separate bazaar. The mosque lies at the (south) east quarter of the city, whereby the eastern city wall forms also the wall of the mosque (court). When you have passed out of the mosque, there lies before you a great level plain, called the Sahirah, which, it is said, will be the place of the Resurrection, where all mankind shall be gathered together. For this reason men from all parts of the world come hither to make their sojourn in the Holy City till death overtakes them, in order that when the day fixed by God – be He praised and exalted! – shall arrive, they may thus be ready and present at the appointed place. O God! in that day do Thou vouchsafe to Thy servants both Thy pardon and Thy protection! Amen. O Lord of both worlds!

At the border of this plain (of the Sahirah) there is a great cemetery, where are many places of pious renown, whither men come to pray and offer up petitions in their need. May God – be He praised and glorified! – vouchsafe unto them their desires. Grant unto us also, O God, our needs, and forgive our sins and our trespasses, and have mercy upon us, O most Merciful of the merciful!

Lying between the mosque and this plain of the Sahirah is a great and steep valley, and down in this valley, which is like unto a fosse, are many edifices, built after the fashion of ancient days. I saw here a dome cut out in the stone, and it is set upon the summit of a building. Nothing can be more curious than it is, and one asks how it came to be placed in its present position. In the mouths of the common people it goes by the appellation of Pharaoh's House. The valley of which we are speaking is the Wadi Jahannum. I inquired how this name came to be applied to the place, and they told me that in the times of the Khalif Omar – may Allah receive him in grace! – the camp (of the Muslims, who had come up to besiege Jerusalem) was pitched here on the plain called Sahirah, and that when Omar looked down and saw this valley, he exclaimed, 'Verily this is the Valley of Jahannum.' The common people state that when you stand at the brink of the valley you may hear the cries of those in Hell which come up from below. I myself went there to listen, but heard nothing.

Going southward of the city for half a league, and down the gorge, you come to a fountain of water gushing out from the rock, which they call the Ain Sulwan (the Spring of Siloam). There are all round the spring numerous buildings; and the water therefrom flows on down to a village, where there are many houses and gardens. It is said that when anyone washes from head to foot in this water he obtains relief from his pains, and will even recover from chronic maladies. There are at this spring many buildings for charitable purposes, richly endowed; and the Holy City itself possesses an excellent Bimaristan (or hospital), which is provided for by considerable sums that were given for this purpose. Great numbers of (sick) people are here served with potions and lotions; for there are physicians who receive a fixed stipend, and attend at the Bimaristan.

The Friday Mosque (which is the Aksa) lies on the east side of the city, and (as before noticed) one of the walls of the mosque (Area) is on the Wadi Jahannum. When you examine this wall, which is on the Wadi, from the outside of the mosque, you may see that for the space of a hundred cubits it is built up of huge stones, set without mortar or cement. Inside the mosque (Area) it is level all along the summit of this wall. The (Aksa) mosque occupies the position it does because of the stone of the Sakhrah. This stone of the Sakhrah is that which God – be He exalted and glorified! – commanded Moses to institute as the Kiblah (or direction to be faced at prayer). After this command had come down, and Moses had instituted it as the Kiblah, he himself lived but a brief time, for of a sudden was his life cut short. Then came the days of Solomon – upon him be peace! – who, seeing that the rock (of the Sakhrah) was the Kiblah point, built a mosque round about the rock, whereby the rock stood in the midst of the mosque, which became the oratory of the people. So it remained down to the days of our Prophet Muhammad, the Chosen One – upon him be blessings and peace! – who likewise at first recognised this to be the Kiblah, turning towards it at his prayers; but God – be He exalted and glorified! – afterwards commanded him to institute, as the Kiblah, the House of the Ka'abah (at Mekkah). The description of the rock will be given below, in its proper place. Now, it was my desire to obtain the measurements of the (Haram Area round the) mosque; and I said to myself, First I will come exactly to know the place in all its aspects, and see the whole thereof, and afterwards will I take the measurements. But after passing some time in the Noble Sanctuary, and examining it, I came on an inscription upon a stone of an arch in the north wall (of the Haram Area), not far from the Dome of Jacob (Kubbat Ya'kub) – on whom be peace! In this inscription the length of the Haram Area was set down at seven hundred and four cubits (arsh), and the breadth at four hundred and fifty-five cubits, of the royal measure. The royal ell (gez-i-malik) is the same as that which is known in Khurasan as the Gez-i-Shaigan (the King's Ell), and is equivalent to one and a half of the (common) cubits (arsh), or a fraction the less. The area of the Noble Sanctuary is paved with stone, the joints being set in lead.

(As we have said before) the Haram Area lies in the eastern part of the city; and through the bazaar of this (quarter) you enter the Area by a great and beautiful (Dargah) gateway, that measures thirty ells in height, by twenty across. This gateway has two wings, in which open halls, and the walls of both gateway and halls are adorned with coloured enamels (Mina), set in plaster, cut into patterns, so beautiful that the eye becomes dazzled in contemplating them. Over the gateway is an inscription, which is set in the enamels, giving the titles of the Sultan (who is the Fatimite Khalif) of Egypt, and when the sun's rays fall on this it shines so that the sight is bewildered at the splendour thereof. There is also a great dome that crowns this gateway, which is built of squared stones. Closing the gateway are two carefully constructed doors. These are faced with Damascene brass-work, which you would take to be gold, for they are gilt, and ornamented with figured designs. Each of these doors is fifteen ells in height, by eight ells across. The gateway we have just described is called the Bab Daud (the Gate of David) – peace be upon him! After passing this gateway (and entering the Haram Area), you have on the right two great colonnades (riwak), each of which has nine-and-twenty marble pillars, whose capitals and bases are of coloured marbles, and the joints are set in lead. Above the pillars rise arches, that are constructed, of masonry, without mortar or cement, and each arch is constructed of no more than five or six blocks of stone. These colonnades lead down to near the Maksurah (or main building of the Aksa Mosque). On your left hand (as you enter the Gate of David), and towards the north, there is likewise a long colonnade, with sixty-four arches, supported by marble pillars. In this part of the wall there is also a gate called Bab as Sakar (the Gate of Hell).

The greater length of the Haram Area extends from north to south, but if the space occupied by the Maksurah (or Aksa Mosque) be deducted, the shape of the court is square, with the Kiblah point lying towards the south.

In the north part (of the Haram Area) is a double gateway, the gates of which are side by side, each being seven ells across by twelve high. This gateway is called the Bab al Asbat (the Gate of the Tribes). When you have passed this gateway, there is still another great gateway in the breadth of the Haram Area (which is the north wall) in the portion running eastward. There are here three gates side by side, of a like size to the Bab al Asbat, and they are each fashioned in iron, and adorned with brass, than which nothing can be finer. These (three) gates they call the Bab al Abwab (the Gate of Gates), for the reason that, whereas elsewhere the gateways are only double, there is here a triple gateway. Running along the north part of the Haram Area, and between the two gateways just mentioned, is a colonnade, with arches that rest on solid pillars; and adjacent thereto a dome that is supported by tall columns, and adorned with lamps and lanterns. This is called Kubbat Ya'kub (the Dome of Jacob) – peace be upon him! – for at this spot was his place of prayer.

And further, along the breadth (or northern wall) of the Haram Area is a colonnade, in the wall of which is a gate that leads to two cloisters (daryuzah), belonging to the Sufis, who have their place of prayer here, and have built a fine Mihrab (or oratory). There are always in residence a number of Sufis, who make this (oratory) the place of their daily devotions, except on Friday, when they go into the Noble Sanctuary, in order to attend the service of prayer therein. At the north (west?) angle (rukn) of the Haram Area is a fine colonnade, with a large and beautiful dome. On this dome there is an inscription, stating that this was the oratory (Mihrab) of Zakariyya, the prophet – peace be upon him! – for they say that he was wont to continue ceaselessly in prayer at this spot. In the eastern wall of the Haram Area there is a great gateway skilfully built of squared stones, so that one might almost say the whole was carved out of a single block. Its height is fifty ells, and its width thirty; and it is sculptured and ornamented throughout. There are ten beautiful doors (dar) in this gateway (set so close), that between any two of them there is not the space of a foot. These doors are all most skilfully wrought in iron and Damascaii brass work, set in with bolts and rings. They say this gateway was constructed by Solomon, the son of David – peace be upon him! – to please his father. When you enter this gateway facing east, there are on your right-hand two great doors. One of them is called Bab ar Rahmah (the Gate of Mercy), and the other Bab at Taubah (the Gate of Repentance); and they say of this last that it is the gate where God – be He exalted and glorified! – accepted the repentance of David – upon whom be peace! Near this gateway is a beautiful mosque. In former times it was only a hall (dahliz), but they turned the hall into a mosque. It is spread with all manner of beautiful carpets, and there are servants especially appointed thereto. This spot is greatly frequented of the people, who go to pray therein, and seek communion with God – be He exalted and glorified! – for this being the place where David – peace be upon him! – was vouchsafed repentance, other men may hope to be turned likewise from their sinfulness. They relate that David – peace be upon him! – as he crossed the threshold to enter this building, had, through divine revelation, the joyful news that God – glory and praise be to Him! – accepted of his repentance; and thereupon David halted at this spot and worshipped. And I, Nasir, also stationed myself to pray here, and besought of God – be He praised and glorified! – to give me grace to serve Him and repent of my sins. May God – be He exalted and glorified! – grant grace to all His servants whom He hath received in favour; and for the sake of Muhammad and his family, the Pure Ones, vouchsafe to all repentance of their sins!

Adjacent to the east wall, and when you have reached the south (eastern) angle (of the Haram Area), the Kiblah point lying before you, south, but somewhat aside, there is an underground mosque, to which you descend by many steps. It is situated immediately to the north of the (south) wall of the Haram Area, covering a space measuring twenty ells by fifteen, and it has a roof of stone, supported on marble columns. Here was the Cradle of Jesus. The cradle is of stone, and large enough for a man to make therein his prayer prostrations. I myself said my prayers there. The cradle is fixed into the ground, so that it cannot be moved. This cradle is where Jesus was laid during his childhood, and where He held converse with the people. The cradle itself, in this mosque, has been made the Mihrab (or oratory); and there is likewise, on the east side of this mosque, the Mihrab Maryam (or Oratory of Mary) ; and another Mihrab, which is that of Zakariyya (Zachariah) – peace be upon him! Above these Mihrabs are written the verses revealed in the Kuran that relate respectively to Zachariah and to Mary. They say that Jesus – peace be upon Him! – was born in the place where this mosque stands. On the shaft of one of the columns there is impressed a mark as though a person had gripped the stone with two fingers; and they say that Mary, when taken in the pangs of labour, did thus with one hand seize upon the stone. This mosque is known by the title of Mahd 'Isa (the Cradle of Jesus) – peace be upon Him! – and they have suspended a great number of lamps there, of silver and of brass, that are lighted every night.

After passing the entrance to this mosque, near by the (south-east) angle of the east wall (of the Haram Area), you come to a great and beautiful mosque, which is other than that called the Cradle of Jesus, and is of many times its size. This is called the Masjid al Aksa (or the Further Mosque), and it is that to which Allah – be He exalted and glorified! – brought His chosen (Apostle) in the night journey from Mekkah, and from here caused him to ascend up into Heaven, even as is adverted to in the words of the Kuran, 'I declare the glory of Him who transported His servant by night from the Masjid al Haram' (the Sacred Temple at Mekkah) 'to the Masjid al Aksa' (the temple that is more remote, at Jerusalem). On this spot they have built, with utmost skill, a mosque. Its floor is spread with beautiful carpets, and special servants are appointed for its service, to serve therein continually.

From the (south-east) angle, and along the south wall (of the Haram Area) for the space of two hundred ells, there is no building, and this is (part of) the court (of the Haram Area). The main building (of the Aksa Mosque) is very large, and contains the Maksurah (or space railed off for the officials), which is built against the south wall (of the Haram Area). The length of the western side of the main building (of the Aksa) measures four hundred and twenty cubits, and the width of it is one hundred and fifty cubits. The Aksa Mosque has two hundred and eighty marble columns, supporting arches that are fashioned of stone, and both, the shafts and the capitals of the columns are sculptured. All joints are riveted with lead, so that nothing can be more firm. Between the columns measures six ells, and the mosque is everywhere flagged with coloured marble, with the joints likewise riveted in lead. The Maksurah is facing the centre of the south wall (of the Mosque and Haram Area), and is of such size as to contain sixteen columns. Above rises a mighty dome that is ornamented with enamel work, after the fashion to be seen in other parts of the Noble Sanctuary. In this place there is spread Maghribi matting, and there are lamps and lanterns, each suspended by its separate chain.

The great Mihrab (or prayer niche towards Mekkah) is adorned with enamel work, and on either side the Mihrab are two columns of marble, of the colour of red carnelian. The whole of the low wall round the Maksurah is built of coloured marble. To the right (of the Great Mihrab) is the Mihrla of (the Khalif) Mu'awiyah, and to the left is the Mihrab of (the Khalit) Omar – may Allah grant him acceptance! The roof of the (Aksa) Mosque is constructed of wood, beautifully sculptured. Outside the doors and walls of the Maksiirah, and in the parts lying towards the court (of the Haram Area) are fifteen gateways (dargah), each of which is closed by a finely-wrought door, measuring ten ells in height by six ells in the breadth. Ten of these doorways open in the (east) wall (of the mosque), which is four hundred and twenty cubits in length, and there are five in the width (or north wall) of the mosque, that measures one hundred and fifty cubits. Among these gates there is one of brass, most finely wrought and beautiful, so that one would say it was of gold set in with fired-silver (niello?) and chased. The name of the Khalif Al Mamun is upon it, and they relate that Al Mamun sent it from Baghdad. When all these gates of the mosque are set open the interior of the building is light, even as though it were a court open to the sky. When there is wind and rain they close these gates, and then the light comes from the windows.

Along all the four sides of the main building (of the Aksa Mosque) are chests (sanduk) that belong each to one of the various cities of Syria and 'Irak, and near these the Mujawiran (or pilgrims who are residing for a time in the Holy City) take their seat, even as is done in the Haram Mosque at Mekkah – may Allah, be He glorified! ennoble the same.

Beyond the main building (of the Aksa), along the great (south) wall (of the Haram Area) afore mentioned, rises a colonnade of two and forty arches, the columns being all of coloured marble. This colonnade joins the one that is along the west (wall of the Area). Inside the main building (of the Aksa) there is a tank in the ground which, when the cover is set on, lies level with the floor, and its use is for the rain water, which, as it comes down, drains therein. In the south wall (of the Haram Area) is a gate leading to the places for the ablution, where there is running water. When a person has need to make the ablution (before prayer), he goes down to this place and accomplishes what is prescribed; for had the place (of ablution) been set without the walls, by reason of the great size of the Haram Area, no one could have returned in time, and before the appointed hour for prayer had gone by.

The roofs of all the buildings in the Haram Area are covered with lead. Below the ground-level are numerous tanks and water-cisterns hewn out of the rock, for the Noble Sanctuary rests everywhere on a foundation of live rock. There are so many of these cisterns that, however much rain falls, no water flows away to waste, but is all caught in the tanks, whence the people come to draw it. They have constructed leaden conduits for carrying down the water, and the rock cisterns lie below these, with covered passages leading down therein, through which the conduits pass to the tanks; whereby any loss of water is saved, and impurities are kept therefrom. At a distance of three leagues from the Holy City I saw a great water-tank, whereinto pour all the streams that flow down from the hills. From thence they have brought an aqueduct that comes out into the Noble Sanctuary. Of all parts of the Holy City this is where water is most plentiful. But in every house, also, there is a cistern for collecting the rain water, for other than this water there is none, and each must store the rain which falls upon his roof. The water used in the hot-baths and other places is solely from the storage of the rains.

The tanks that are below the Haram Area never need to be repaired, for they are cut in the live rock. Any place where there may have been originally a fissure or a leakage, has been so solidly built up that the tanks never fall out of order. It is said that these cisterns were constructed by Solomon – peace be upon him! The roofing of them is like that of a baker's oven (tannur). Each opening is covered with a stone, as at a well-mouth, in order .that nothing may fall down therein. The water of the Holy City is sweeter than the water of any other place, and purer; and even when no rain falls for two or three days the conduits still run with water, for though the sky be clear and there be no trace (of cloud), the dew causes drops to fall.

As I have written above, the Holy City stands on the summit. of a hill, and its site is not on level ground. The place, however, where the Noble Sanctuary stands is flat and on the level; but without the Area the enclosing wall varies in height in different places, by reason that where the fall is abrupt, the Haram wall is the highest, for the foundation of the wall lies at the bottom of the declivity; and where the ground mounts, the wall, on the other hand, has, of need, been built less high. Wherever, in the city itself and in the suburbs, the level is below that in the Haram Area, they have made gateways, like tunnels (nakab), cut through, that lead up into the court (of the Noble Sanctuary). One such as these is called Bab an Nabi (or the Gate of the Prophet) – peace and blessing be upon him! – which opens towards the Kiblah point, that is towards the south. (The passage-way of this gate) is ten ells broad, and the height varies by reason of the steps; in one place it is five ells high, and in others the roof of the passage-way is twenty ells above you. Over this passage-way has been erected the main building of the (Aksa) Mosque, for the masonry is so solidly laid that they have been able to raise the enormous building that is seen here, without any damage arising to what is below. They have made use of stones of such a size, that the mind cannot conceive how, by human power, they were carried up and set in place. It is said, however, that the building was accomplished by Solomon, the son of David – peace be upon him! The Prophet – peace and blessing be upon him! – on the night of his Ascent into Heaven (Mi'raj), passed into the Noble Sanctuary through this passage-way, for the gateway opens on the road from Mekkah. Near it, in the wall, is seen. the imprint on the stone of a great shield. It is said to be that of Hamzah ibn 'Abd al Mutallib, the Prophet's uncle – peace be upon him! – who once seated himself here with his shield on his back, and leaning against the wall, left the mark of the same thereon. This gateway of the Haram leading into the tunnelled passage-way, is closed by a double-leafed door, and the wall of the Haram Area outside it is of a height of near upon fifty ells. The reason for the piercing of this gateway was to enable the inhabitants of the suburb lying obliquely beyond to enter the Haram Area at their pleasure, without having to pass through other quarters of the city. To the right of this gateway there is in the wall a block of stone eleven cubits high and four cubits across, and this is larger than any other of the stones of the wall, although there are many others that measure four and five ells across set in the masonry at a height of thirty and forty ells.

In the width of the Haram Area there is a gate, opening towards the east, called Bab al 'Ain (or the Gate of the Spring); passing out from which you descend a declivity to the Spring of Silwan (Siloam). There is also another gate (the passage-way of which) is excavated in the ground, and it is called Bab al Hittah (the Gate of Remission). They say that this is the gate by which God – be He exalted and glorified! – commanded the Children of Israel to enter the Noble Sanctuary, according to His word – be He exalted! – (in the Kurran), 'Enter ye the gate with prostrations, and say (Hittah), " Remission!" and We will pardon you your sins, and give an increase to the doers of good.'

There is still another gate (to the Haram Area), and it is called Bab as Sakinah (the Gate of the Shechinah, or Divine Presence), and in the hall (dahliz) adjacent thereto is a mosque that has many Mihrabs (or prayer niches). The door at the entrance thereof is barred, so that no one can pass through. They say that the Ark of the Shechinah, which God – be He exalted and glorified! – has alluded to in the Kuran, was once placed here, but was borne away by Angels. The whole number of gates, both upper and lower, in the Noble Sanctuary of the Holy City, is nine, and we have here above described them.

In the middle of the court of the Haram Area is the platform (dukkan), and set in the midst thereof is the Sakhrah (or Rock), which before the revelation of Islam was the Kiblah (or point turned to in prayer). The platform was constructed by reason that the Rock, being high, could not be brought within the compass of the mainbuilding (of the Aksa Mosque). Wherefore the foundations of this platform were laid, measuring three hundred and thirty cubits by three hundred, and the height thereof twelve ells. The surface of the same is level and beautifully paved with slabs of marble, with walls the like, all the joints being riveted with lead. Along the edge of its four sides are parapets of marble blocks, that fence it round, so that, except by the openings left for that purpose, you cannot come thereto. From up on the platform you command a view over the roofs of the (Aksa) Mosque. There is an underground tank in the midst of the platform, whereto is collected, by means of conduits, all the rain-water that falls on the platform itself; and the water of this tank is sweeter and purer than is the water of any other of the tanks in the Haram Area.

On the platform rise four domes. The largest of them is the Kubbat as Sakhrah (the Dome of the Rock), which Rock was of old the Kiblah. This dome is so situate as to stand in the middle of the platform, which itself occupies the middle of the Haram Area. The edifice is built in the form of a regular octagon, and each of its eight sides measures three-and-thirty cubits. There are four gates facing the four cardinal points, namely, east, west, north, and south; and between each of these is one of the oblique sides of the octagon. The walls are everywhere constructed of squared stones, and are twenty cubits (in height). The Rock itself measures a hundred ells round; it has no regular form, being neither square nor circular, but is shapeless, like a boulder from the mountains. Beyond the four sides of the Rock rise four piers of masonry that equal in height the walls of the (octagonal) building, and between every two piers, on the four sides, stand a pair of marble pillars, which are like to the height of the piers. Resting on these twelve piers and pillars is the structure of the dome, under which lies the Rock; and the circumference of the dome is one hundred and twenty cubits. Between the walls of the (octagonal) building, and the circle of piers and pillars – and by the term 'pier' (sutan) I understand a support that is built up, and is square; while the term 'pillar' (ustuwanah) denotes a support that is cut from a single block of stone, and is round – between this inner circle of supports, then, and the outer walls of the edifice, are built eight other piers of squared stones, and between every two of them are placed, equidistant, three columns in coloured marble. Thus, while in the inner circle between every two piers there are two columns, there are here (in the outer circle) between every two piers, three columns. On the capital of each pier are set four volutes (shakh), from each of which springs an arch; and on the capital of each column are set two volutes; so that at every column is the spring of two arches, while at every pier is the spring of four.

The great Dome, which rises above the twelve piers standing round the Rock, can be seen from the distance of a league away, rising like the summit of a mountain. From the base of the Dome to its pinnacle measures thirty cubits, and this rises above the (octagonal) walls that are twenty ells high – for the Dome is supported on the pillars that are like in height to the outer walls – and the whole building rises on a platform that itself is twelve ells high, so that from the level of the Court of the Noble Sanctuary to the summit of the Dome measures a total of sixty-two ells. The roofing and the ceiling of this edifice are in woodwork, that is set above the piers, and the pillars, and the walls, after a fashion not to be seen elsewhere. The Rock itself rises out of the floor to the height of a man, and a balustrade of marble goes round about it in order that none may lay his hand thereon. The Rock inclines on the side that is towards the Kiblah (or south), and there is an appearance as though a person had walked heavily on the stone when it was soft like clay, whereby the imprint of his toes had remained thereon. There are on the rock seven such footmarks, and I heard it stated that Abraham – peace be upon him; – was once here with Isaac – upon him be peace! – when he was a boy, and that he walked over this place, and that the footmarks were his

In the house of the Dome of the Rock men are always congregated, pilgrims and worshippers. The place is laid with fine carpets of silk and other stuffs. In the middle of the Dome, and over the Rock, there hangs from a silver chain a silver lamp; and there are in other parts of the building great numbers of silver lamps, on each of which is inscribed its weight. These lamps are all the gift of the (Fatimite Khalif, who is) Sultan of Egypt, and according to the calculation I made, there must be here silver utensils of various kinds of the weight of a thousand Manns (or about a ton and a half). I saw there a huge wax taper that was.seven cubits high, and three spans (shibr) in diameter. It was (white) like the camphor of Zibaj, and (the wax) was mixed with ambergris. They told me that the Sultan of Egypt sent hither every year a great number of tapers, and among the rest, the large one just described, on which the name of the Sultan was written in golden letters.

The Noble Sanctuary is the third of the Houses of God – be He exalted and glorified! – and the doctors of religion concur in saying that a single prayer offered up here, in this Holy City, has vouchsafed to it the effect of five-and-twenty thousand prayers said elsewhere; just as in Medinah, the City of the Prophet – peace and benediction be upon him! – every single prayer may count for fifty thousand, while each that is said in Mekkah, the Venerable – God, be He exalted, ennoble the City! – will pass for a hundred thousand. And God – be He exalted and glorified! – give grace to all His servants, that they may one day acquit themselves of such prayers!

As I have said before, all the roof and the exterior parts of the Dome of the Rock is covered with lead, and at each of the four sides of the edifice is set a great gate, with double folding-doors of Saj-wood (or teak). These doors are always kept closed.

Besides the Dome of the Rock there is (on the platform) the dome called Kubbat as Silsilah (or the Dome of the Chain). The 'chain' is that which David – peace be upon him! – hung up, and it was so that none who spoke not the truth could grasp it, the unjust and the wicked man could not lay hand on it, which same is a certified fact, and well known to the learned. This Dome is supported on eight marble columns, and six stone piers; and on all sides it is open, except on the side towards the Kiblah point, which is built up, and forms a beautiful Mihrab.

And again, on the platform, is another Dome, that surmounts four marble columns. This, too, on the Kiblah side, is walled in, forming a fine Mihrab. It is called Kubbat Jibrail (the Dome of Gabriel); and there are no carpets spread here, for its floor is formed by the live rock, that has been here made smooth. They say that on the night of the Mi'raj (the ascent into heaven), the steed Burak was tied up at this spot, until the Prophet – peace and benediction be upon him! – was ready to mount. Lastly, there is yet another Dome, lying twenty cubits distant from the Dome of Gabriel, and it is called Kubbat ar Rasul (or the Dome of the Prophet) – peace and benediction be upon him! This Dome, likewise, is set upon four marble piers.

They say that, on the night of his ascent into heaven, the Prophet – peace and benediction be upon him! – prayed first in the Dome of the Rock, laying his hand upon the Rock. And as he came forth, the Rock, to do him honour, rose up, but the Prophet – peace and benediction be upon him! – laid his hand thereon to keep it in its place, and there firmly fixed it. But, by reason of this uprising, even to the present day, it is here partly detached (from the ground below). The Prophet – the peace of Allah be upon him, and His benediction! – went on thence and came to the Dome which is now called after him, and there he mounted (the steed) Burak; and for this reason is the Dome venerated. Underneath the Rock is a large cavern, where they continually burn tapers, and they say that when the Rock moved in order to rise up (in honour of the Prophet), this space below was left void, and that the Rock became fixed, and so it has remained; even as may now be seen.

Now, regarding the stairways that lead up on to the platform of the court of the Noble Sanctuary, these are six in number, each with its own name.

On the side (south) towards the Kiblah, there are two flights of steps that go up on to the platform. As you stand by the middle of the retaining wall of the platform (on the south), there is one flight to the right hand and another to the left. That lying on the right is called Makam an Nabi (the Prophet's Station) – peace be upon him! – and that lying on the left is called Makam Ghuri (or the Station of Ghuri). The stairway of the Prophet's Station is so called for that on the night of his ascent the Prophet – upon him be peace and blessing! – went up to the platform thereby, going thence to the Dome of the Rock. And the road hither from the Hijjaz comes by this stair. At the present day this stairway is twenty cubits broad, and each step is a rectangular block of carefully chiselled stone in one piece, or sometimes in two. The steps are laid in such a fashion that it would be possible to ride on horseback up on to the platform thereby. At the top of this stairway are four piers (sutun) of marble, green, like the emerald, only that the marble is variegated with numberless coloured spots ; and these pillars are ten cubits in height, and so thick that it would take two men to encompass them. Above the capitals of these four pillars rise three arches, one opposite the gate, and one on either side; and (the masonry) crowning the arches is flat-topped and rectangular with battlements (kangurah) and a cornice (shurfah) set therein. These pillars and the arches are ornamented in gold and enamel work, than which none can tie finer.

The balustrade (dar-afrin) round the (edge of the) platform is of green marble variegated with spots, so that one would say it was a meadow covered with flowers in bloom.

The stairway of Makam Ghuri consists of a triple flight, and the three lead up together on to the platform, one in the middle and two on either side, so that by three ways can people go up. At the summit of each of the three flights are columns supporting arches with a cornice. Each step is skilfully cut, of squared stone, as noted above, and each may consist of two or three blocks in the length. Over the arcade above is set a beautiful inscription in gold, stating that it was constructed by command of the Amir Laith ad Daulah Nushtakin Ghuri, and they told me that this Laith and Daulah had been a servant of the Sultan of Egypt, and had caused these steps and gangways to be built.

On the western side pf the platform there are, likewise, two flights of steps leading up thereon, and constructed with the same skill as those I have just described. On the east side there is but one flight. It is built after a like fashion to the foregoing, with columns and an arch with battlements above, and it is named Makam Sharki (or the Eastern Station). On the northern side (of the platform) there is also a single stairway, but it is higher and broader than are any of the others. As with those, there are here columns and arches built (at the top of the flight), and it goes by the name of Makam Shami (that is the Syrian or Northern Station). According to the estimate I made, these six flights of steps must have had expended upon them one hundred thousand dinars (or 50,000).

In the court of the Haram Area, but not upon the platform, is a building resembling a small mosque. It lies towards the north side, and is a walled enclosure (hadhirah), built of squared stones, with walls of over a man's height. It is called the Mihrab Daud (or David's Oratory). Near this enclosure is a rock, standing up about as high as a man, and the summit of it, which is uneven, is rather smaller than would suffice for spreading thereon a (prayer) rug (zilu). This place, they say, was the Throne of Solomon (Kursi Sulaimin), and they relate that Solomon – peace be upon him! – sat thereon while occupied with building the Noble Sanctuary.

Such, then, are the sights I saw in the Noble Sanctuary of the Holy City; and noted down in the diary that I wrote; and, lastly, among other wonders that I saw in the Sanctuary of the Holy City was the Tree of the Houris.

* * * * *

© 2005   A. vander Nat   Email   03-2007 Go to:   A. vander Nat's Homepage