Dome of the Rock

by Jackie D on October 1, 2012

There are places you read about that are so far away and so seemingly magnificent that you assume these places will only ever be just that to you — places you read about once.

If you went back in time to however old I was when I first learned about the Dome of the Rock and told me that I would be standing in front of it in September of my 24th year, I probably would have slapped you in the face.* It’s not that I lacked the interest, it’s just that I never saw any good reason for anyone to let me near something as important as the Dome of the Rock.

Dome of the Rock

How often can you get a picture of a monument without 33043 tourists in front of it, these days?

The Dome is a shrine located on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Although non-Muslims are permitted to enter the premises, they aren’t permitted inside the Dome. My brief time there was split between people-watching and trying to analyze the Dome as though I were sitting in an art history class. Somehow, between all of my art classes, I’m not sure I ever actually studied it.

The whole scene was an extremely quiet one. There weren’t many people wandering around, and those who were present were either silent or speaking in low voices, as though in a library. This was surprising to me, as both the Wailing Wall and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre were extremely loud, crowded, and emotional places, full of tourists taking pictures.

Those sites seemed to completely overwhelm anyone who was deeply religious (and they also seemed to frustrate anyone who couldn’t simultaneously operate a camera and weather a human stampede. Understandably.). The Dome, on the other hand, was open and quiet; there was a certain solemnity, almost to the point of restraint. Maybe it’s a different case if you actually get to go inside.

Dome of the Rock

I still don’t think I fully appreciate how rare it is that I actually visited this site. It still feels like something I’ve only read about — and now, of course, like something I’ve only written about. This is a familiar feeling. Whenever I actually do get to visit all of these places I’ve read about in books, I think I have a hard time accepting the fact that I am actually experiencing them in real life.

I stand in front of the Dome, or the Louvre, or the cafe in Edinburgh where JK Rowling wrote some of the Harry Potter series, and I have to tell myself over and over again, “Ok, this is it, you’re here. No, really, you are. Do something. Take a picture, maybe? At least try to have an intelligent thought about this. At least one intelligent thought.”

Sometimes, it’ll hit me a few minutes after. Sometimes a few months. Some of them haven’t even hit me yet. But at least I know that even if I can’t conjure up one intelligent word about the Dead Sea as I am bathing in it, I will be able to appreciate it at some point down the road, probably when I’m skimming through some book and I come across a picture of it and my heart stops for a second and I realize, “Holy crap — that actually exists, and I have actually seen it.”

*Well no, I wouldn’t have.

**Also: this trip was made possible by the lovely DigIsrael group, although all opinions are, as usual, my cat’s.



{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Zoraida October 2, 2012 at 2:38 am

Merely wanna input that you have a very nice website , I like the pattern it actually stands out.


Daryl October 2, 2012 at 9:03 am

oh man, you make me want to go to israel sooooo bad! Remind me how I can have your life again?!

P.S. – your cat has really great opinions.


admin October 2, 2012 at 11:57 am

She’s quite vocal in all of her opinions, particularly those that relate to ancient monuments. Also: we shouldn’t trade lives, we should COMBINE them and become an unstoppable world-traveling crime-fighting dynamic duo! Although that’s a lot of adjectives to live up to, so maybe just world-traveling…


Audrey | That Backpacker October 3, 2012 at 5:59 am

I got to study this building in my Islamic architecture class in university (yep, took lots of random ones)! It’s a pretty fascinating place, but I was so disappointed when I learned that non-Muslims can’t set foot inside because that is the best part!


admin October 3, 2012 at 12:04 pm

I ALMOST took that class but ran out of time with other things I needed to take. Fail. I really wish we could have gotten to go inside, but I was grateful that we at least got the chance to see it up close — there was a such a long line and apparently it’s usually pretty hard even to get onto the grounds. We kind of breezed past people and it felt like we were VIPs — probably the only time I will ever feel that way!


Alana - Paper Planes March 27, 2013 at 2:10 am

I know what you mean by feeling like things aren’t really real, or that the importance/weight of them should hit you more, when you actually see them. Never goes away…
Alana – Paper Planes recently posted..>> Moment in: Croissant Heaven >>My Profile


admin March 28, 2013 at 8:57 pm

I’m kind of glad it never goes away.


Greg Goodman March 27, 2013 at 6:46 am

Givin me the wanderlust… and I’m currently wandering. I was so close to going to Israel and Egypt this month but life had different plans. I was in Jerusalem when I was 13, but I don’t remember it, so it’s time to go back.
Greg Goodman recently posted..Twilight Taipei Traffic – A Series of Long ExposuresMy Profile


admin March 28, 2013 at 8:39 pm

I would love to go to Egypt, and I want to make a trip back to Israel because I was only there for such a short time. I’ll meet you there!


Ash Clark March 27, 2013 at 8:22 am

Great article jackie. I can definitely relate to having to take a mental ‘time-out’ to really appreciate significant historical sights.
Ash Clark recently posted..The Cheapest Place To Get High In New York CityMy Profile


admin March 28, 2013 at 8:37 pm

I still can’t believe I was actually there. I think I need like three more years to get used to the idea.


Jeff Dobbins March 30, 2013 at 1:21 am

Wow. I would so love to visit the Dome. Was just in the Mezquita in Cordoba, and had that same, “Am I really here?” feeling. So wanted to absorb it all, which felt impossible.
Jeff Dobbins recently posted..Nice CarnivalMy Profile


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