Visiting the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock, which is one of the most important Muslim sites in the world, requires some planning and preparation. Here’s how to plan the most efficient trip for your visit to this extraordinary cultural place.
1. What to bring
The Temple Mount is a very important place in the Islamic religion, so it is important to dress modestly. Men should avoid shorts and tank tops and opt for pants and T-shirts with sleeves instead. For women, legs, neck and arms should be covered to stay safe. It is advisable to bring a scarf in winter or lightweight shawl or pashmina for summer. I wore yoga pants, and this did not qualify as pants when I entered, so I was given a free rental skirt in a nice turquoise hue. I wore a zip-up hoodie to cover my arms, and I was instructed to wrap my light scarf around my neck to cover up. If you plan to visit in summer, you can also bring your own floor-length skirt or wrap.
2. What not to bring
Here are a few things that are not allowed in the Temple Mount (guards will check your bags, so there is no way around this): any Jewish objects such as prayer books, tefillin, tallit, flags or other religious Jewish objects. This is good to keep in mind if you plan to go shopping for souvenirs or gifts in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City on the same day of your trip. You can do the shopping afterward, or leave these items at your place of accommodation. In regard to camera gear, we overheard that tripods are not allowed into the Temple Mount area. If you plan to be out for the day, leave your tripod at home!
3. Visiting hours
Visiting the Dome of the Rock requires planning, as the open hours center around hours of Muslim prayer. The hours are different in winter and in summer for this reason. It’s advised to check the schedule before working a trip to Dome of the Rock into your day, but we did not have a problem. For the 1pm opening, we arrived at 12pm on the dot and were the tenth people in line for security.
Security is airport-style for entrance into the Temple Mount complex. When summoned by guards, you will proceed to a metal detector and all your bags will go through a scanner. Guards will look at your passport and may question you about your intentions for your visit. If you are Jewish, you may be taken aside and questioned privately, with guards reminding you to not make any remarks to anyone about Judaism while inside, for your safety.
5. What to expect inside the Temple Mount complex
Once inside the Temple Mount complex, you will feel like you’ve entered another world. The most striking thing is that on one side of a wall is the holiest place in Judaism, the Western (Wailing) Wall, and on the other is a place where daily Muslim life is going on and a call to prayer is broadcasted multiple times per day over loudspeakers. There are people going to pray, there are children tossing around soccer balls and there are people coming to meet each other. While visiting, we felt very safe, and it is permitted to take photos of nearly anything, as long as you are not getting in anyone’s way. The Dome of the Rock itself is an incredibly beautiful building and is one of the most famous pieces of architecture in the world.
Visiting the Temple Mount and Dome of the Rock is one of the most interesting things you can do in Jerusalem and it is an excellent learning experience as well. It’s important to remain respectful and keep in mind all of the scheduling and security precautions in order to have a seamless visit there.