The Dome and the rock. Lavish and intricate arabesque designs cover almost every inch of the Dome of the Rock’s ceiling. One of the most spectacular buildings in the world, the Dome of the Rock has dominated the skyline of the Old City of Jerusalem since its construction by Caliph Abd al-Malik in 691 A.D.; so identified with the city is the Dome that it frequently serves as an icon for Jerusalem.
Directly below the 108-foot-high dome lies es-Sakhra, the rock mass from which, according to Moslem tradition, Mohammed ascended to heaven on his Night Journey to Jerusalem. Jewish tradition views the rock as the place where Abraham nearly sacrificed Isaac (Moslems counter that it was Abraham’s other son, their ancestor Ishmael, instead). Everyone agrees, however, that Jerusalem’s First Temple, built by Solomon, and the Second Temple, greatly expanded by King Herod, stood somewhere on the same mount that now holds the Dome of the Rock, though opinions differ over precisely where. Author Leen Ritmeyer, in a previous article in BAR, described the location of the original square Temple Mount; while engaged in his own Night Flight to Jerusalem (carried aloft by an airplane), Ritmeyer pinpointed what he believes is the very spot where the Ark of the Covenant rested within the Temple, as he details in the accompanying article.