Al Aqsa Mosque

One of the most important mosques in the world, with tremendous religious and political importance, captivating stories, and a unique sacred atmosphere.
Al Aqsa Mosque, Jerusalem

The holiness of Al Aqsa mosque

Al Aqsa Mosque is one of the most important sites in Islam, and a site of tremendous cultural and political influence. As the third most important mosque in the world, with a fascinating history and major influence on life and politics today, it is definitely among the most important sites in Jerusalem.

Located on Temple Mount, nearby the Dome of the Rock and above the Western Wall, Al Aqsa mosque is a site of incredible religious and cultural importance and one of the well-known symbols of the old city of Jerusalem. Here is all of the important information about the Al Aqsa mosque, including the site’s history, and the ways to visit it or see it from afar.

The Story of Al Aqsa Mosque

The name Al Aqsa means the farthest Mosque or the Last Mosque. In Arabic, the name refers to the whole Temple Mount. According to the Quran and Muslim tradition, Muhammad ascended to heaven right here on Temple Mount, leaving his mark on the Foundation Stone, which can be seen in the Dome of the Rock. According to tradition, one night the angel Gabriel arrived in the city of Mecca, where he met the prophet Muhammad. At the behest of the angel, Muhammad flew to Jerusalem on the back of ‘Al-Buraq’ – an animal with the hair of a girl, studded with precious stones and six wings. From the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, according to the legend, Muhammad and the angel ascended through seven levels to heaven, and on each level, he met and spoke to another prophet.

The History of the mosque

The first to build a mosque in this place was Khalif Umar, who conquered Jerusalem in 640. Muslim tradition says that when Omar conquered Jerusalem, he arrived at the Temple Mount together with a Jewish convert, and asked him where they should build the mosque. The convert answered that the best place is to the north of the Foundation Stone, since from this place the person praying to the south can pray to the two directions of prayer (qibla): for the Jews – towards the Foundation Stone and for the Muslims – towards Mecca. Then Umar said that the Muslims were not commanded by the Foundation stone but only by Mecca, so he would build the mosque to the south of the Foundation stone so that he prayed to the direction of Mecca with his back to the Foundation stone.

At a later stage, the initial simple wooden structure of the mosque was replaced by a large stone structure by Abd al-Malik, one of the first rulers of the Umayyad dynasty, which was the first to make Jerusalem holy to Islam. The problematic location of the mosque in the south of the Temple Mount, on top of Herod’s vaults, had caused many problem through the years: it was damaged by earthquakes at least five times, including once in the middle of the eighth century when it was almost destroyed. In 1035, the Al Aqsa Mosque was built in a smaller format, and this is the structure seen today.

In the 12th century, when the Crusaders conquered Jerusalem, the Templars expelled the Muslims from the Temple Mount and made the Al Aqsa Mosque their center because they believed that it was used as Solomon’s Temple. Today, the mosque, which is under the official control of the Jordanian Waqf, is a major religious center, hosting thousands of Muslims in their prayers. It gets visitors every day but is mostly active on Fridays and Muslim holidays.

Can you visit Al Aqsa Mosque?

Today, it is not possible for non-muslim visitors to go inside the mosque. However, it is possible to go up Temple Mount and see Al Aqsa Mosque from up close. However, it is important to note that there is usually a lot of tension around the Temple Mount, so it is recommended to check the situation in advance before you decide to visit. If you wish to go up Temple Mount, it is possible to do so from the Western Wall Plaza.

Anyway, it’s important to know that in order to visit Temple Mount, you will be required to present an identification card, and wear shirts and pants with long sleeves. In addition, it is not allowed to wear or carry non-Muslim religious symbols of any kind.

If you do not intend to go up Temple Mount, there are several ways to see the impressive mosque from afar. The best and most popular viewpoint on the mosque is the Rehavam Lookout, located on the Mount of Olives.


Opening hours

For non-Muslims -
Open from Sunday - Thursday
Wintertime: 7:00 - 10:30; 12:30 - 13:45
Summertime: 7:00 - 11:30; 13:30 - 14:30

Parking and transportation

There is no available parking near Temple Mount. The best way to get there is to park at the edge of the old city and walk there. The closest parking lot is about 20 mins on foot. It is easy to get here by bus, with many bus lines getting to the Western Wall.

Accessibility arrangements

Search for posts and destinations

What would you like to find? Search here information and ideas about any location in Israel

Planning your trip to Israel?

Join our exclusive Facebook group for the latest travel tips, real-time updates, travel hacks, and connect with local experts & fellow Israel enthusiasts in our Facebook group