First Published: 2017-06-28

A mystical Ramadan journey to Jerusalem
With its gold dome, blue tiles, arches and verses from the Quran written in Arabic calligraphy, the Dome of the Rock is breathtakingly beautiful.
Middle East Online

By Noreen Sadik - JERUSALEM

Every holy month, visi­tors from near and far make the journey to the sacred destination.

The highlight of Ramadan is my annual visit to Je­rusalem, to al-Haram al- Sharif — the Noble Sanc­tuary — which houses al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Every holy month, visi­tors from near and far make the journey to the sacred destination.

The first sight of the Dome of the Rock, its golden cupola shining as sunset nears, creates a sense of urgency, compelling onlookers to get as close to it as quickly as pos­sible. After leaving the bus stop, visitors pass through Bab al-Amud, also known as the Damascus Gate. Completed in 1542 by Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent, it is the arched entrance through which visitors enter the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City.

Upon entering the Old City, one is automatically transported to a magical place. Steeped in the charm of history and tradition, the quarter’s cobblestoned pathways lead to al-Haram al-Sharif and the holy sites within.

It is from this site that the Proph­et Mohammad is said to have tak­en his Night Journey known as Isra and Mi’raj, when he travelled on the steed Buraq to the farthest mosque (al-Aqsa). There, legend has it, he led other prophets in prayer and ascended to the heav­ens where he spoke to God. It is Is­lam’s third most important shrine, following Mecca and Medina.

Under the ancient arches are dark alleys that lead to other parts of the Old City. Faint light streams through them, creating shadows on the paths. Coloured lights, dec­orations for Ramadan, stretch high over the cobblestone walkways.

It is the people, however, who are the life and soul of the Old City. The streets are lively as visitors and locals walk through the mar­ket. The shops, which line each side of the pathway, are bustling. Shop owners try to lure those hur­riedly passing by into their shops, which boast items ranging from clothing, including colourful head scarves and prayer clothing, to household items, toys, souvenirs and spices. Between the shops, the scent of delicious Palestinian food from restaurants and stalls fills the air.

As adhan — the sunset call to prayer — approaches and the hours of the day-long fast turn to min­utes, the tension becomes tangible and hungry shoppers rush to make last-minute purchases of falafel, freshly squeezed juices and sweets covered in syrup, such as kanafeh or katayif.

Suddenly the busy marketplace is deserted. Upon reaching the end of the pathway, the market ends and the spiritual journey for Mus­lims begins.

When one enters al-Haram al- Sharif compound, one finds one­self facing the Dome of the Rock. Situated on a raised platform, the shrine was built by the Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan in the late seventh century. With its gold dome, blue tiles, arches and verses from the Quran written in Arabic calligraphy, it is breathtak­ingly beautiful. Its beauty contin­ues inside with more Quranic vers­es written in calligraphy, marble pillars and more intricate Islamic designs.

Al-Aqsa mosque is in the south­ern part of the sanctuary, separat­ed by a series of arches and stairs. When the time arrived for adhan, worshippers took their seats on the cold, hard floor of al-Haram al-Sha­rif. Preceded by the loud bang of a cannon, the call to prayer rang out.

As I sat to take my first bite, the oneness of the thousands of peo­ple gathered there for the same purpose — to pray — struck me. How humbled I felt to be part of this. How humbled I felt to be in this place where the Prophet Mo­hammad had once stood, a place where one can only feel awe.

The heat of the day was replaced by a cool breeze. Women remained at the Dome of the Rock to pray the taraweeh, a prayer reserved for Ramadan, and the men gathered a few feet away at al-Aqsa. During the nightly taraweeh, the Quran is read in its entirety over the course of the month. Standing shoulder to shoulder, women repeated the same prayers.

The prayers finish late in the night. As worshippers file out of al-Haram al-Sharif, they re-enter the market of the Old City. Stalls of sweets, toys, juices, corn on the cob and Palestinian souvenirs are abundant. The smell of the nargila (water pipe) fills the air.

Some stay within the walls to enjoy the rest of the evening and others sit on the stairs outside the walls of the ancient Old City.

A sense of contentment, power and love filled me as I left the holy site that brings so many together as one. Until next year. I will be back!

- Noreen Sadik is a Palestinian-American journalist based in Israel.

- ©2017 The Arab Weekly

 

Baghdad refuses talks with Kurdistan about referendum results

Three Israelis killed at West Bank settlement

Seven arrested in Egypt for raising rainbow flag at concert

European ambassadors to US strongly back Iran nuclear pact

Dubai set to become first city with flying taxis

Libya's Haftar bolsters stature as key player

Kurdish independence: How far will Turkey go?

Germany’s de facto ‘IS leader’ on trial

IMF satisfied with Egypt's 'bold' reforms

Qatar Airways places $2bn order for six Boeing planes

Erdogan expects ‘ethnic war’ after Iraqi Kurdish independence vote

Israelis shocked by German nationalist gains

Hamas-Fatah reconciliation process shows growing Egyptian influence in region

74-year-old Iranian gets death sentence for explicit parties

Iraqi soldiers take part in Turkish military drill

Iran joins Turkey in warning of regional chaos from Kurd vote

Turkish hunger-striking academics in intensive care

Returning Syrians find Raqa city unrecognisable

How far can Baghdad become independent of Iranian influence?

Qatar World Cup worker sacked after speaking to UN team

China conducts first military drills in Djibouti

Saudi official axed over king's image with Yoda

Syrian government ready to discuss Kurdish autonomy

63-year-old American abducted in Yemen's Sanaa

US kills ISIS chiefs hiding in new nerve centre

Saudi establishment spreading Shiite hate speech

Madrid hails Rabat’s collaboration in fighting terrorism

Regional tensions rise in Kurds’ independence vote

Iraq Kurds start voting in historic independence referendum

UAE announces plans for region’s first nuclear reactor

Erdogan threatens Iraqi Kurds with border closure, oil block

Putin to visit Erdogan this week for Syria, Iraq talks

Sudan vows to step up efforts to improve US ties

Turkey to launch intervention into Syria — and maybe into Iraq

Egyptian ‘world’s heaviest woman’ dies in Abu Dhabi

Palestinian unity government remains unlikely

Emirati man fights his employer to serve in country’s army

Palestinian PM to visit Gaza next week

Saudi advisory body to tackle female driving ban

Turkey denies closing Iraqi border in response to Kurdish vote

US air strikes kill 17 Islamic State militants in Libya

US-led strikes killed 84 civilians near Syria's Raqa

Yemen's Hadi says military solution 'most likely'

The high cost of Syria’s destruction

Palestinian negotiator awaits lung transplant in US